Moscow: Moscow, Sep 19 (IANS) The 1,000-day countdown for the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup began in front of the Kremlin at an event attended by former soccer players such as German Lothar Matthaus and Spaniard Fernando Hierro.
A giant clock placed in the heart of Moscow began calculating from Friday the time remaining until the first kickoff of the opening match at the Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018, during the world event which will be organised for the first time by an eastern European country, reports Efe.
"We are always happy to see guests and promise to organise grand celebrations in Russia, which will make history in the world of sport and soccer," Russian President Vladimir Putin told the event's attendees through a video conference message.
Similar celebrations were held in the remaining 10 host cities in the European part of Russia, including the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
A soccer pitch was installed in the middle of the Red Square to host an U16 competition between Russia, Spain, Germany and Italy.
Sports Minister and president of the Soccer Union of Russia, Vitaly Mutko, said that construction of the 12 planned World Cup stadiums has been affected by the recent recession which has hit the Russian economy.
The Spartak Stadium has already hosted matches in the Russian league as well as other international clashes, while renovations to the Luzhniki stadium, as well as the stadiums in Sochi and Kazan, are within schedule.
Mutko also said that the dismissal of the general secretary of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, is not going to affect Russia's preparations in any way.
Despite the calls of some federations to deprive Russia of the right to organise the 2018 World Cup, due to alleged violations committed during the bidding process, it seems that there is no change of plans, especially after the qualifying draw was made in the city of Saint Petersburg in July.
A year before the 2018 World Cup kicks off, the cities of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Sochi will be hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup in June and July 2017.