- Associated Press - Friday, July 29, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) - A Russian official in charge of overseeing the 2018 World Cup said Friday that he is “concerned” about a dispute at a stadium in St. Petersburg which threatens to disrupt preparations.

The St. Petersburg city government is trying to replace the main contractor for its already-delayed 68,000-seat arena, prompting speculation in Russian media that the resulting disruption could force organizers to move next year’s Confederations Cup from the city.

Organizing committee CEO Alexei Sorokin told The Associated Press that there are no current plans to move the Confederations Cup.

“We are concerned but it’s not to the point where we are ready to panic or to discuss Plan B,” he said in a telephone interview. “We do not underestimate the situation. It is serious, but the situation is still workable, operational. It’s not something that throws us off balance.”

The St. Petersburg stadium started construction in 2007 and has been dogged by cost rises and delays, as well as other problems including the deaths of workers in accidents, fraud investigations, redesigns and allegations that some construction work was substandard and had to be redone.



In 2012, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said during a visit to the site that the project looked “disgraceful.”

The stadium is officially slated by the city government to be completed in December, six months before the Confederations Cup begins. Sorokin said the organizing committee was monitoring the arena “every day” and had assurances from the city government that it would be ready by the end of the year.

The company which was the main contractor for the project until earlier this week, Inzhtransstroy, did not reply to a request for comment from The AP.

Company spokesman Nikita Pavlov told Russia’s state sports channel Match TV on Monday that the dispute could cause significant delays.

“The scenario is not developing in the best possible way, to put it mildly,” he said, “both for the general contractor organization and, most importantly, for the stadium, for the timescale which was previously announced of December 2016.”

Pavlov called on the various subcontractor companies at the stadium, which employ hundreds of people, to stop work, saying it would be illegal for them to continue without Inzhtransstroy’s supervision. However, Sorokin said work had not been interrupted.

“We verify each day that there is 500 workers currently performing all the work at the stadium,” he said. “By the end of August, we’ll have a new general contractor which is perfectly capable of completing all the work.”

The disruption in St. Petersburg is mostly not reflected at the other 11 stadiums across Russia for the World Cup, though a recent dispute involving the main contractor in Samara led to conflicting reports from government officials about whether work there had stopped.

Sorokin said such issues were simply hiccups in the process, rather than signs of crisis.

“When you have a project of such magnitude, it is and it has been impossible for any country to have an absolutely seamless, smooth process everywhere when you have this scope of investment, this scope of construction,” he said.

The organizing committee said work on the stadium is 85 percent complete, with five months to go until the deadline.

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