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Russia World Cup safe from economic threat - Infantino

FIFA President Gianni Infantino plays with a ball during a friendly soccer match between 2018 World Cup Organising Committee and Rosich-Starco team of Russian politicians and pop stars in Moscow, Russia, June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
FIFA President Gianni Infantino plays with a ball during a friendly soccer match between 2018 World Cup Organising Committee and Rosich-Starco team of Russian politicians and pop stars in Moscow, Russia, June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's economic difficulties will not affect the country's preparations to host the 2018 World Cup, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.

"We have received all the guarantees that the World Cup will be delivered as promised," he told Reuters after a ceremony in Moscow to find volunteers for the 2018 World Cup and the 2017 Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up event.

"But in addition to this, I really believe that an event like the World Cup and the Confederations Cup the year before will simply help to boost the economy of Russia because the eyes of the world will be on Russia and Russia can shine to the whole world.

The country has been hit hard by economic sanctions imposed by the EU and USA over its role in Ukraine and remains in recession, although it is slowly recovering from the slump of 2015.

"This will create a lot of business opportunities aside from the football event," Infantino added.

FIFA's president also said the doping scandals in Russia revolving around the country's track and field athletes would not affect the hosting of the World Cup.

"It will not affect the country's reputation and certainly not the quality of preparation for the World Cup," he said.

A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report in November alleging widespread state-sponsored doping in Russia led to a ban on the country competing in international athletics competitions.

"From what I can see, Russia has done everything in this respect to move ahead in the right way and when it comes to FIFA and the World Cup, we at FIFA have our anti-doping programme and it will be implemented in the same way, whether it is in Russia or anywhere else around the world," Infantino concluded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also attended the event, said he would make sure that all the venues for the 2018 World Cup were completed on time.

"The preparations for the World Cup are going ahead at full speed," said Putin. 

"Three stadiums -- in Kazan, Sochi and Moscow (Otkrytie Arena) -- have already been built. The other nine are being built. All the construction companies say that the stadiums will be completed on time. I am sure that they will keep their promises," he added. 

Putin said reconstruction work on the tournament's main arena, the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, was also going according to plan. It is expected to be completed by December 2016.

"I am sure that the sportsmen and the visitors to the World Cup will have the highest levels of organisation available to them. They should all feel that they are taking part in this grand football festival," Putin concluded. 

The 2018 World Cup will see 12 stadiums being used in 11 cities -- two in Moscow, and one each in St. Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.

(Reporting By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

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