Press Conferences

2 december, 2010 22:30

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gives a news conference in Zurich after Russia wins the 2018 FIFA World Cup bid

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gives a news conference in Zurich after Russia wins the 2018 FIFA World Cup bid
“Come and see for yourselves how we are preparing for the FIFA World Cup-2018. That will be a good way to see Russia, to tour its cities and to understand the country better. Russia is developing, it is on the upsurge, and it will become even stronger by 2018.”

Vladimir Putin (in English): Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I would like to say thank you to President Blatter and members of the executive committee. We are honoured by your decision. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Soccer is popular, very popular all over the world, especially in Russia. And here is a story to prove it. I told it to your colleagues, to our Russian journalists in Moscow four hours ago. I was born in Leningrad, and as you know, during World War II Leningrad went through 900 days of blockade. Leningrad was bombed every day. No electricity, no running water, no food and no heat. No heat in the Russian winter. But, but football matches were held even at that tragic time. And it helped people to stand tall and survive.

Football brings a spark into the lives of people, young and old. Today Russia has nearly 23 million young citizens. They are not even 15. Football is school for many of them. It teaches always to do your best, be competitive, choose a healthy lifestyle. Football makes a difference in the world, a difference for the better.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Each bid is very special and significant. Each bid is a challenge. And we are honoured to win in this tough and fair fight. You can take my word for it that the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be up to the highest standards. New modern stadiums and facilities will be built in time, and to perfection. We are eager to do our best to secure the comfort and safety of our guests.

We also have a couple of offers. You know about it. Visa-free entry and free of charge trips between cities to watch football matches. Besides, you can get to know Russia, a unique country with a long history and rich culture. Not bad, not bad at all.

Finally, let me say again thank you for supporting Russia. Together, together let us make sure that football promotes fair play, tolerance, honour.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention.

I will speak Russian please, yeah?

Please. Any questions please.


Question: I would be very interested to know why, really, you adopted such a different approach to this campaign to the one you adopted when Sochi won the Winter Olympic Games. What I mean is why you stayed away here and were so prominent in going to Guatemala?

Vladimir Putin: I have actually explained this before. Basically, I would like to say, about our bid for the Olympics and now for the FIFA World Cup, that these are two different situations. Of course, the competition was very tough in both cases. But there weren't as many smear campaigns and scandals during bidding for the 2014 Olympics.

I said at a meeting of the Government Presidium yesterday that I believe we should leave FIFA members alone so that they can calmly make an unbiased decision, without being pressured by people like me.

So I asked a colleague of mine, the Russian Sports Minister (he is a FIFA member and sits on the Executive Committee) to tell the Executive Committee that I would not come to personally represent [Russia's] bid, as I had done for an Olympic bid in Guatemala.

This wasn't a snub on my part; on the contrary, I chose not to show up precisely out of respect for FIFA officials. I view the campaigns launched by other countries during the bidding process as unacceptable.

But I told Mr Mutko that if, nonetheless, the privilege of hosting the tournament was awarded to Russia, I would come right away; I'd talk to the media and meet with President Blatter to discuss how we should work together with FIFA and its Executive Committee in organising the World Cup. And I did just that.

Question: You said it was all unacceptable, that the situation was murky... Could you please explain what you meant by that?

Vladimir Putin: Digging up incriminating material and making corruption allegations is quite an unsavoury thing to do, you know. All the more so since all the allegations made here were groundless, to the best of my knowledge, and they had been recognised as such previously. As a result, this can only be qualified as an attempt to pressure FIFA officials. That's unacceptable, I think. As simple as that.

And then, later on, it was all leaked to the world media. What would you call that kind of thing? I'd describe that as dishonest competition.

Question: Mr Blatter has repeatedly said that he is keen to get to know Russia, which he personally regards as a continent rather than a country. He has made no bones about his eagerness to see Russia as a World Cup host. Have you been able to talk with the FIFA President yet? What did you discuss?

Vladimir Putin: You see, the FIFA President has spoken with many of the bidding committee heads. There's no secret about that, and it doesn't violate FIFA regulations. But I can tell you that Mr Blatter is an unbiased man (Mr Mutko has told me the same just now). I wouldn't say he was disposed toward Russia in a particularly favourable way. Moreover, he kept us jittery all the way through today's session, quite frankly.

But we believe we've built a good defence for our bid. Also, we've made our bid consistent with the FIFA philosophy, guided by the ambition of expanding the boundaries of world football to include new countries and regions.

As I said earlier, there are lots of people living in Russia and there are millions of football fans out there. But we've never hosted a World Cup before – neither in Russia, nor in the former Soviet Union, nor anywhere in Eastern Europe. While writing our bid, we tried to underscore this circumstance in the hope that FIFA would be keen to expand the boundaries of world football still further.

Secondly, the world is still trying to overcome the aftermath of an economic crisis. Many countries in Europe are facing serious financial problems.

Russia's economy, too, has its share of woes. But it now ranks third in global gold reserve ratings, with its current reserves worth a total of $500 billion. It has also been enjoying steady growth, and is expected to continue doing so in years to come at a rate of about 4%.

We're now preparing to host a Universiad in Kazan and the Winter Olympics (in Sochi). So already, preparations are underway for major world competitions in two Russian cities. We're in the process of building an innovative infrastructure there. I think FIFA members took all these circumstances into account when voting.

Question: Mr Putin, my congratulations on Russia's winning bid.

Were you worried at all about the possibility of the accusations against Russia in the Western press undermining the country's chances for success?

Vladimir Putin: That's news to me. I haven't heard anything about it before, despite the numerous scandals surrounding the vote. (I haven't heard) any accusations against Russia or even hints, for that matter. Not even once.

But I did plan to come over here to make the final presentation for our bid. And cancelling the trip was a really tough decision for me to make, owing precisely to the circumstances I've just outlined. I believed the FIFA Executive Committee should be allowed to vote without anyone bringing pressure to bear on them. All my colleagues, all the members of our bidding squad, were waiting for me to join them, actually. But I explained my motives to them. And you and I now know the final result. So it seems I did the right thing after all.

Question: Good evening, Mr Putin. I've got two questions for you. First of all, did it occur to you at any point that your decision to stay away from the final presentations could have adversely affected Russia's bid? And, secondly, did your win in two rounds come as a surprise to the Russian delegation? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Let me make it clear once again that it was, indeed, a tough decision for me not to come here ahead of the vote. But, having weighed all the circumstances and having analysed the context, I chose not to go. It was hard on me, and my colleagues were frustrated, I think. We spoke a lot over the phone, and they tried to persuade me to change my mind. But I said: "No, I've made my choice already, so you just carry on with your work there and let (FIFA officials) make their final decision calmly. Our bid is good; it stands out favourably from the others. Sure we'll make it." And we did.

Question: Did you foresee your victory in the runoff?

Vladimir Putin: No. Of course we didn't know whether we would win.

We certainly didn’t know about it. We couldn’t have known. We didn’t know whether we would win at all. I believed that we had to win. But who can be 100% sure about that? We didn’t think we’d win already in the second round of voting. This came as a complete surprise.

Question: Many people here have said that you see the World Cup as an opportunity to show the world another Russia, its true face. Can you describe how your personally see your country?

Vladimir Putin: First of all, we need to show that Russia is an open country, that it is open to the whole world. People will understand what Russia is when they come here. There are still a lot of stereotypes left over from the past. But the more contacts we establish, the faster these stereotypes will dissipate.

We can move this process forward by hosting major sporting events such as the World Students Games, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Moreover, they will ensure that, at least in Europe, there are not any visible or invisible Berlin Walls.

Question: Mr Putin, the English bid clearly believes today that it was cheated. Do you believe that the English bid was cheated?

Vladimir Putin: No, I don’t think so. Britain is a great football country. In Russia, there are a lot of fans of British football in general and particular players. But Britain lost, lost to a worthy opponent. We expect to see you at the 2018 World Cup. And you can be sure that we’ll create the best possible conditions for English players to show their talents.

Question: Nevertheless, England remains the football country that we look up to. One famous Russian coach recently said that, to put it mildly, everything is already almost 40-60% predetermined in Russian football. Don’t you think that it’s high time to apply political will to straighten out things in football to make it as clean as in England within the next eight years?

Vladimir Putin: Well, I am not sure that English football is 100% clean. There is nothing absolutely pure in nature. Even if there is, absolute purity can be achieved in a lab only. But we still need to strive for this. And we will do so, of course.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, this morning we saw five prime ministers and a future king of a country come and address FIFA. You are the one prime minister that stayed away. So would it be fair to say that you are the cleverest prime minister in the world by staying away and winning the contest from so many thousands of miles away?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I’m glad I insisted on giving you the floor. Thank you, it’s very nice to hear this.

Question: Mr Putin, did you know that Spain/Portugal was your biggest or your strongest rival in the election? Did you know it in advance?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, we analysed the situation. We knew who the main rival was, but those were only rough estimates. No one knew for sure how FIFA members would vote. Initially – and this is known to everyone, including experts and journalists who deal with this issue – Britain was one of the favourites. But then other contenders dashed ahead.

We assumed that the Spain and Portugal bid was a serious threat to us. On the other hand – and it’s no secret either – we knew that FIFA doesn’t really like double bids, and we were set to win. And it turned out this way.

As you know, Ukraine and Poland are preparing for the European Cup. They are facing certain problems, but I am confident that they will manage them. However, a double bid blurs the responsibility, so to speak. And I can understand FIFA’s concerns with this. Spain and Portugal’s bid had its strong and weak points. And we were aware of them.

Question: Mr Putin, I am a journalist from Brazil. I have two questions on football itself. You said that today you won, but your national team hasn’t been to a World Cup for some time already. And if during the Soviet Union you were a very big superpower in sports, today you’re not. What is going to happen from now until 2018 to guarantee that not only Russia qualifies, but Russia qualifies and does something?  And, by the way, what are you going to be in 2018?     

Vladimir Putin: Where did the South African team end up in the World Cup? I am not sure it has always qualified for such competitions. World Cups are held in different parts of the world to promote football, it connects millions of people all over the world as fans and players. If the same countries host World and European Cups, football will stagnate. We believe that the very fact of our hosting the World Cup and our preparations for it will give a boost to football in Russia. We adopted a comprehensive programme for the development of football, and not only because we were bidding for the World Cup. We have committed ourselves to creating 500 modern football fields in almost all Russian regions, in almost every major city. This work is underway. It’s a challenge for us, a challenge that will promote football in our country, I hope.

I expect that new players will appear in Russia and our national team will play first-rate football. Meanwhile, our clubs participate in other competitions, and they do well, not to say superbly. They win these competitions.

Question: I’d like to congratulate you on the win and ask you a question.  It’s a vast country. The World Cup will give a boost to many regions across the country, up to Yekaterinburg. What about Siberia and the Far East? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: First, we cannot develop everything all at once. Second, Yekaterinburg is already a major Russian city. Third, we must proceed from FIFA requirements. Even if the World Cup is hosted in 10, 12 or 13 cities, they must be located in the same general area so that people can travel easily from one location to another.

When Mr Shuvalov presented Russia’s bid today, he mentioned he was born in the Chukchi Peninsula. It takes nine or ten hours to get there from Moscow by plane, and eight hours to get from Moscow to New York.

Do you mean we should host the World Cup in cities across this entire territory? We will certainly develop football in Siberia, the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Far East. Of course we will. We will host the World Cup in 13 cities. Incidentally, according to FIFA requirements, a bidding country must be able to host the World Cup in 10-12 cities. And we have 13 such cities. Not bad.

I’m sure I’ll be asked this question, so I would like to tell you up front that the construction of stadiums and infrastructure will require 300 billion roubles, according to preliminary estimates. This is equivalent to about $10 billion, comparable to what was spent to prepare for and host the World Cup in South Africa.

Luzhniki Stadium is a Moscow venue; the construction of another stadium in Moscow, Spartak, will be funded by LUKoil, yet another, Dynamo, by VTB. We are building sporting venues in Kazan and Sochi as part of preparations for the World Student Games and the Olympics.

Gazprom is building a stadium in St Petersburg. We’ll need to build just a few more stadiums to have the necessary amount to host the World Cup. Hopefully, we’ll be able to spend less than 300 billion roubles on new stadiums since some of them are being built through other projects.

Question: Russia has the Olympics and the World Cup in the next eight years. The United States is 0-3 and has none of the above. What do you attribute your success to and their failures to? And how do you feel about this?  

Vladimir Putin: I didn’t quite get the question. Do you want us to give up the right to host the World Cup or the Olympics? Okay, you failed to win the bid. What do we have to do with this? What do you want from us? I don’t understand.

Question: What sets Russia apart? What has Russia done so well? What do you think is the key to your success?

Vladimir Putin: I think there are several factors. First of all, we made far-reaching plans, up to 2018. These plans will be realised over the next seven to eight years. I think that when FIFA members make a decision they look at the political situation in a country, whether it is a stable and safe country or whether there is turmoil there and no one knows where the country will be in two, three, four or five years. In Russia the political situation is stable.

Second, our economic development is not too shabby. I’m making an understatement because we would like it to be better. Despite numerous problems with the need for economic diversification, Russian economic growth maintained an annual average of 7% these last ten years. On the whole, our social situation is peaceful because the population’s real income has grown by 7.4% and the number of people below the poverty line has shrunken by 4.2% within these same ten years. We are implementing ambitious healthcare and sports programmes, and I think that the decision-makers for major international athletic competitions take all that into account.

Apart from everything else, I think that it is very important for people to experience other cultures – I said so while answering another question. When Russia was part of the Soviet Union, it developed in isolation behind the Iron Curtain. It is essential now for my country to open itself to the world, and we are grateful to those who help us to do so.

Question: Mr Putin, we British well know Mr Abramovich, and he is a household name in world football. Do you have any plans to use his knowledge and experience in 2018?

Vladimir Putin: You see, Mr Abramovich worked for several years – and worked well – in the Chukchi Peninsula, which I have mentioned. Few know him for it, and everyone calls him the tycoon who bought the Chelsea football club. Some Russians approve of it, while others do not. But then, Mr Abramovich promotes Russian football as well. He sponsors a club – which is it, Mr Abramovich? He wouldn’t say – it should be in a trade union. We know, however, that he takes the development of Russian football very much to heart and, on the whole, can assist in World Cup preparations. Such work is possible and is known as public-private partnership. When I mentioned stadium construction, I said that our major petroleum company, LUKoil, intends to build the Spartak, a large stadium in Moscow. Vneshtorgbank will sponsor the construction of another stadium. We want to attract businesses to other areas, too, so as to reduce government expenditures to the minimum.

I don’t rule out Mr Abramovich’s participation in one of such projects. Let him untie his purse strings – he can afford it! He’s wallowing in money.

Question: My question concerns your future. Will you run for the Russian presidency?  

Vladimir Putin: I am continually pestered with this question! As you know, I have arranged with President Medvedev to decide together who will be what, proceeding from national interests. We are good friends and work together. We will make a concerted decision when the time comes.

We all – the whole country – will prepare for the World Cup. The president and the government will support such preparations. Believe me, millions of Russians are enthusiastic about the FIFA choice.

Question: What will be the material basis for the 2018 World Cup?

Vladimir Putin: It matters tremendously. When we were making plans for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, we and the International Olympic Committee focused on it together. We must pay dues to the IOC members. They arranged for us not to lose anything in the future. So we will make some facilities dismountable in order to move them to other parts of Russia later.

I have to agree with our recent opponents that the Russian football infrastructure is badly underdeveloped. They are right. We will not build any redundant projects. We will use them all. As for stadiums, we certainly count on making as dynamic a milieu as in any other European country. Football clubs should be economically effective and self-reliant. That is number one. Number two, as I have said, is that we intend to attract private investments in sports venue construction to minimise government expenditures. Private businesses can also be more versatile in planning how to use these facilities in the future. They will never stand idle due to the shortage of sports facilities in Russia, and that poses no problem. As for the auxiliary infrastructure – airports, highways, river and seaports – they will all serve people for years to come. So there are no problems there either. By the way, we will fund these aspects of World Cup preparation using other budget items. Moreover, funding for such infrastructure has already been earmarked in the budgets for 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Question: Mr Putin, first of all, I would like to congratulate you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Question: What changes and what development, do you think, does our country need in order not to appear as a laughing stock at the World Cup?

Vladimir Putin: No doubt, we will do everything on time and meet quality standards. Moreover, I do not doubt that the other bidders will render us direct and friendly support just as is the case with the current Olympic preparations. I don’t think anyone doubts that everything is going as planned. It is a huge job involving European and North American companies who are working as one family – not only companies but experts engaged in purely athletic preparations. We are extremely grateful to them. I am sure we will have support from our colleagues in the United States, in the United Kingdom and from other European countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium or Spain.

As you know, the competition for the right to host some event or to implement something is quite tough. But as soon as it’s over, the atmosphere becomes positive and business-like, and joint work begins. That’s the way it always happens in a civilised society. I would like to repeat once again that we have enough funding. We will probably require some consultative services. I have no doubt that such support will be provided, the preparation standards will be adequate and no one will be embarrassed. On the contrary, everyone will be satisfied with the way Russia had prepared for the championship.

Question: Mr Putin, first of all, my congratulations. As a fan, what do you enjoy watching more, the Winter Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup? Your country will host both events in the next few years.

Vladimir Putin: What I enjoy watching most is when Russia wins either the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, or when we win the right to host those events.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, what lessons can Russia learn from Germany and South Africa, which hosted the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups? This primarily concerns ways of attracting fans to such events.

Vladimir Putin: This is a challenge, of course. I understand what you are talking about. Although we have such problems, all major recent international competitions were marked by an extremely high level of organisation. The security standards were high with regard to Russian and foreign fans. There are some really rough sports fans in some countries who, nonetheless, stayed civil in Russia. I hope we will take into account the experience of holding the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and other countries. We will ask our partners for advice and will react to all events in the sports and football world. I’m confident that, instead of being stagnant, the situation will continue to develop until 2018. We will heed all this and will work together. We will not work in isolation but will maintain close contacts with the entire football world, both directly and through FIFA.

Question: Mr Putin, you have discussed the development of football in Russia. We hear a lot about racist incidents during football matches in Russia. What, in your opinion, should be done in order to avoid violations of the law during the FIFA World Cup in Russia?

Vladimir Putin: Many countries have problems linked with ethnic intolerance, no matter how much they conceal them. This often happens in European countries, as well. It wasn’t Russian police that chased a teenager into an electric transformer booth where he was killed by electric shock. That didn’t happen in Russia. There are many other similar incidents. We are aware of this problem, and unfortunately, we share it with other countries.

At the same time, I would like to stress once again that we have been able to provide security during all major international competitions so far. As far as xenophobia, racism, national and religious intolerance are concerned, this is a global problem. Russia is currently fighting this problem together with all other countries. We will continue our persistent efforts in the future, as well. 

Question: What do you think will be the best match of the FIFA World Cup-2018?

Vladimir Putin: Naturally, I would like the Russian national team to win. I’m counting on this very much.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, congratulations on the victory. When South Africa and Brazil were preparing to host the World Cup, the media watched them closely. Are you aware that over the next seven years Russia will become the focus of the global media, too, as it prepares for the World Cup?

Vladimir Putin: You know, the media from all over the world has been watching our initial preparations for the Olympic Games in Sochi. This is a large-scale, massive and involved effort, sometimes complicated technically and technologically. We have a mountain cluster there, and must build over 80 bridges, sophisticated tunnels, a railway leading into the mountains, a new motorway, and provide gas, electricity and sewage facilities, and a vast number of infrastructure projects, and all this is now fully under way.

I have no doubt that the global media will be watching as attentively our preparations for the World Cup. I repeat: now that we have planned a series of major competitions, which are the University Games in Kazan, the Olympic Games and now the World Cup, all this will help us to minimise our costs and use some of the facilities we are building for other competitions for these ones, too. On the whole this will make our task easier. But we are aware that the monitoring will be strict, and so we will work hard.

Question: Mr Putin, could you perhaps tell us now about the negative or critical statements on FIFA?

Vladimir Putin: People are of course always hurt when others try to throw mud at them. But this does not seem to be the main thing. The main thing, as I already said, is the commitment to expand the scope of global football, and to expand it to countries capable of hosting the World Cup. Russia is capable of that.

Question: Russia is one of the largest countries in the world, with a great population, a vast territory stretching for many kilometres, ships, the army and so on. Now you have won the right to host the World Cup. In 2022, the Cup will be hosted by a country that will follow Russia, and it will be like an ant at the side of an elephant, a small bungalow next to a skyscraper.  Don’t you find it strange that the largest country hosts the Cup in 2018 and a totally unknown one, in 2022?

Vladimir Putin: I have already explained this. I do not want to comment on 2022, because I find it difficult to give any assessments there. I think the underlying logic here is the same: to open up new countries to football. You said Russia is one of the largest countries in the world. I will take the liberty of correcting you, but don’t take offence. Russia is not one of the largest countries. Russia is the largest country in the world in territory terms. But a country’s standing is not determined by its size today but by the welfare of its citizens above all, and this is an area where we have a lot to achieve yet. In order to address these objectives, we need to pass many phases, and one of the key ones is being open to the world. But we expect the world to be fair to Russia. There seem to be mostly sports reporters here and I am sure you are aware that we are seeking to join the World Trade Organisation. We work with other international organisations and we conduct dialogue with all our partners no matter how difficult that dialogue might be. It seems to me that events like the World Cup bring countries and nations together and are certain to create better conditions for economic cooperation and for tackling even the most complex political issues.






Question: Mr Putin, FIFA is anxious about transport. Are you sure the footballers and fans will travel smoothly across this vast territory?

Vladimir Putin: There is always risk. But there’s a Russian saying: “He who does not take risks does not drink champagne.” Our risk, however, is well-weighed and does not cross the limits beyond which situations get out of control. We have just said that Russia is the largest country in the world, territory-wise. It really is. However, one of your colleagues – a Russian, mind you – asked how we are going to develop football in Siberia and the Far East. We do not want yet to make Siberia and the Far East World Cup venues as the area is too large. The World Cup games will proceed in European Russia, where distances are quite different. But then, there are many transport infrastructure problems in European Russia, too. It is not for the World Cup that we have endorsed a special government programme to develop the transport infrastructure, particularly airports and highways, and huge budget sums are earmarked for it already. That’s how we will develop transport.

As for World Cup preparations, we will certainly readjust our plans for it – but only together with the FIFA Executive Committee. They should tell us what should be done and where.

So we will draw plans, create a legal basis, pass government decrees and, if necessary, endorse a special law the way we did for 2014 Olympic preparations in Sochi. We will pass a special law and work in compliance with it. 

Question: Mr Putin, Mr Alexei Sorokin, who worked at the committee for two years, says that the World Cup will help to put an end to certain misconceptions of Russia existing in the West, outside Russia. What do you see as the greatest delusions on Russia current outside it?

Vladimir Putin: You know, a great many clichés survive since the Cold War. They roam Europe as so many flies, buzzing above one’s head to frighten people. Things are really quite different. Come and see how we are preparing for the World Cup, and come to see its games. You will get firsthand knowledge of Russia, visit its cities, talk to people and understand this country better. I don’t think it appropriate to describe Russia in detail here and now. It is developing, it is on the upswing, and it will get even stronger by 2018.

I would like to thank you all for your attention to today’s agenda, for well-wishing attitudes to our bid and for the approval of Russia’s victory in the tough competition for hosting the World Cup. I would like to say that we really respect all our colleagues who wanted to host the World Cup but were not so lucky. They were certainly able to do it and, no doubt, would make fine hosts. The European countries, the United States and Japan would be brilliant success, I am sure. They will certainly have another chance, and we will support their bids just as they will support us in preparing for the 2018 World Cup.

Thank you very much. Goodbye.