MOSCOW – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Thursday construction delays at one of the stadiums to be used for the 2018 World Cup.
During his annual press conference at the WTC congress center in Moscow, Putin referred to problems with Samara Cosmos Arena, which is scheduled to host group-stage and round-of-16 matches.
“Everything goes according to plan, but for the sake of objectiveness it should be noted that there is a two-month delay at one in 12 stadiums in 11 cities. But it can be put right,” he said.
“I am confident that everything will be done on schedule and at a high quality level,” Putin added.
While 11 of the 12 World Cup stadiums will be turned over to FIFA – soccer’s world governing body – at the beginning of the year, the 45,000-seat Cosmos Arena is not expected to be ready until April or May.
“We’ve got extensive experience of successfully holding large competitions. The Confederations Cup was held at the highest possible level. It is very important to us that FIFA inspectors are accompanying the preparations for the tournament,” the president said.
Responding to another question, Putin said it was a mistake for Russia to have reinstated Grigory Rodchenkov as head of the national anti-doping laboratory for the 2012 and 2014 Olympics.
Russian authorities investigated Rodchenkov and his sister, champion runner Marina Rodchenkova, in 2011 on suspicion of providing performance enhancing substances to Russian athletes.
While Rodchenkova was convicted and sentence to 18 months in prison, Rodchenkov was hospitalized after attempting suicide and spent time in a psychiatric hospital. Officials ultimately dropped the charges against him after he agreed to resume his duties for the 2012 Summer Games in London and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Rodchenkov later fled to the United States, where he now lives under witness protection after testifying that Russian Olympic athletes benefited from a state-backed doping program, prompting the suspension of the Russian athletics federation.
The International Olympic Committee has barred numerous Russian athletes from the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea and those who are allowed to compete will not do so under Russia’s flag.
Putin said that officials erred in reinstating Rodchenkov after his mental breakdown and suggesting that some of Rodchenkov’s claims about Russian doping may be influenced by his connections to the US government.
“He is also under the control and protection of the FBI. For us, this is a disadvantage. That means that he is under control of the American intelligence services: who knows what they are doing with him,” Putin said.