FIFA selects 2018 World Cup venues in Russia


MOSCOW (AP) - Two stadiums in Moscow will host some 2018 World Cup games, among the dozen arenas finalized by FIFA on Saturday for the first cup in Russia.

The centerpiece will be Moscow's 89,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium, which hosted the Champions League final in 2008. Work on redeveloping it is due for completion in 2016.

Spartak Moscow's stadium also made the cut over the arena being built for Dynamo Moscow, which was squeezed out as a result of FIFA decreeing that only two stadiums could be used in the capital.

Among the 11 cities to host matches are St. Petersburg, and the Black Sea city of Sochi, which is also set to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The others are Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Kaliningrad, Volgograd and Saransk.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said at the venue announcement that Russia's preparations were ahead of schedule.

With the exception of Yekaterinburg, all the host cities lie west of the Urals Mountains, which is traditionally deemed to mark the boundary between Europe and Asia.

Some have nonetheless raised concerns about the distances some soccer fans may have to travel.

Arenas in Kaliningrad, a Baltic Sea exclave tucked between Poland and Lithuania, and Yekaterinburg will be separated by 1,550 miles and three time zones.

Russian soccer officials have pointed out that distances have also been great in previous host nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also said Saturday that air and railway travel would be subsidized during the competition, which will bring costs down for fans.

"Nobody will be left out in this festival of sport," Putin said.

Russia has faced questions about its ability to successfully organize the competition amid concern at reports of rampant racism seen among soccer fans at the nation's stadiums.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has pledged that Russia will work hard to combat discrimination among fans.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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