The 2018 World Cup is half a year away but just five out of the 12 stadiums where competition matches are planned in Russia are functional.
FIFA, however, says it is not concerned and almost all the venues should be completed by a December 31 deadline.
Here is an overview of the stadiums spread across 11 cities, from Moscow’s show-stopping Luzhniki to the behind-schedule venue in Samara on the Volga river:
Moscow’s legendary Luzhniki
Russia’s most famous football venue has been hosting matches since 1956. The entirely renovated stadium saw its first event in November this year with a match between Russia and Argentina.
The athletics track has been removed, bringing seating areas closer to the pitch and highlighting the monumental scale of the stadium.
But movement could prove a problem: thousands of spectators were blocked inside the Luzhniki for more than two hours after the inaugural match because of jams at the exits.
Scandal-plagued Saint Petersburg Stadium
Work on the stadium in Russia’s northern capital, where one semi-final and the match for third place will be held, took more than 10 years and came in way over budget.
The turf was replaced as it was too fragile, but the new pitch is already in a bad state. And while the spaceship-like structure opened in March this year, its corridors still seem like a permanent building site and are crossed by electrical wires.
Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Built in 2014, the Otkrytie Arena is home to Spartak Moscow and will be known as the Spartak Stadium for the World Cup. The team are the current Russian Premier League champions and the venue is known for its buzzing atmosphere, especially so when it hosts the national team.
Kazan Arena, Tatar jewel
The stadium in the capital of Tatarstan was opened in 2013 during the Universiade, an international event for university athletes. Kazan, which also hosted the Confederations Cup, hopes to become a “capital of sports” and will host six World Cup matches, including a quarter-final.
Winter Olympics’ Fisht Stadium
Located in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the foot of the Caucasus region, the Fisht Stadium hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. It has since been adapted for football matches, including for the Confederations Cup. It will host six World Cup games, including a quarter-final.
Volgograd Stadium, on the ruins of Stalingrad
Architecturally similar to the “bird’s nest” stadium that Beijing constructed for the 2008 Olympic Games, this new venue on the banks of the Volga will host four matches during the first round of the tournament.
The stadium rises from the ground around which two million people died over 200 days in the Battle of Stalingrad — the tragic turning point of World War II.
Fire at Nizhni Novgorod Stadium
Several incidents, including a minor fire in October, have set back construction but the venue is set to be completed by the end of December. The Nizhni Novgorod Stadium is situated at the meeting point of the Volga and Oka rivers, some 250 miles (400 km) east of Moscow.
Rostov-on-Don Stadium, close to Ukraine
The future home of FC Rostov is completed and awaiting its first official match. The stadium will host five World Cup matches and lies just 40 miles (60 km) from the region of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists that have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014.
Delayed Samara Stadium
If there is one venue still causing concern, it is Samara, some 550 miles (850 km) south-east of Moscow. Work is well behind schedule and the stadium, which is notable for its particularly raked seating, will not host an official football match until April at the earliest.
Mordovia Stadium, in the World Cup’s smallest city
Temporary seating has been put up and the capacity of Mordovia Stadium will be reduced to 28,000 after the World Cup. The venue should be completed before the end of December. Saransk, the capital of the Republic of Mordovia — which is better known for its detention camps than its football team — will be the smallest city involved in Russia’s World Cup, with a population of 300,000.
Yekaterinburg Stadium, horror seating
The stadium in Yekaterinburg made front pages around the world when pictures were published of temporary seating perched atop scaffolding outside the arena, looking in.
The UK’s perplexed Guardian newspaper suggested the entire ensemble might have come from “outer space” while USA Today screamed that it “couldn’t look any scarier”.
Situated close to the Ural mountains, some 900 miles (1,500 km) east of Moscow, the stadium will be the easternmost to feature in the World Cup.
Kaliningrad Stadium, in Russia and in Europe
Four matches are set to be played in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave to the north of Poland. If the stadium is almost finished, its surroundings still need to be developed and this may prove no easy task, given that it was constructed on a swamp.
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