St. Petersburg Prepares for World Cup 2018

In just a month, Russia will host its first-ever FIFA World Cup football tournament. St. Petersburg will host seven of the tournament’s 64 games, including the one that will decide the third place winner. An estimated million football fans will come to St. Petersburg for the events. The city has changed greatly in preparation for the cup - here’s what you need to know about this summer in St. Petersburg.

Credit: zaburdaev.ru

The centerpiece of the World Cup in St. Petersburg is, of course, the new Krestovsky Stadium, aka the Zenit Arena, on Krestovsky Island. With seating for 67,000 people, it takes over from the 1920s-built Petrovsky Stadium as the city’s flagship arena.

Credit: 500px.com/serg_d
Credit: 500px.com/serg_d

In preparation for the games, St. Petersburg’s public transit system has undergone a massive rehaul. Two new subway stations, Begovaya and Novokrestovskaya, are slated to open in the next month and will provide an easy way to get to the Zenit Arena stadium and the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg Park. Support at the World Cup’s events will also be carried out by nearly 2,500 volunteers selected from among fans from Russia and other countries.

Even if you don’t have a ticket to a game at the Zenit Arena stadium, you can still watch the games with other fans; besides the many game-streaming events in the city’s many restaurants and bars, you should also pay a visit to the FIFA Fan Fest at Konyushennaya Square, right near the legendary Church of the Savior on Blood. Fans can watch all of the World Cup games on the big screen, as well as attend musical performances, enjoy great food and drinks at the many booths. Festivities will reach their peak on July 12 with a musical concert by Russian rocker Zemfira.

Credit: towardsdatascience.com
Credit: towardsdatascience.com

Those looking for football-related souvenirs can find them at official World Cup brand stores at Gostiny Dvor (Nevsky Prospect 35) and Galeria Mall (Ligovsky Prospect 30). Among the products are official Telstar 18 footballs, clothing, and various memorabilia depicting the tournament’s charming mascot, the wolf Zabivaka. However, a much more unusual souvenir is a selfie taken with one of the 33 cats placed around St. Petersburg as part of the “My Love – Football and Cats” art project. The cats, decorated by art school students and Mitki art-movement figurehead Dmitry Shagin, represent the countries participating in the tournament. Those who manage to get a selfie with all 33 cats will even win a special prize!

View from Betancourt Bridge. Credit: fontanka.ru
View from Betancourt Bridge. Credit: fontanka.ru

Even if you’re not much of a football fan, it’s still a great idea to spend a day on exploring the new additions to the cityscape; start from Vasilievsky Island, cross the freshly-opened Betancourt Bridge, explore Krestovsky island, take a break in the shade at Primorsky Victory Park, take in the views of Zenit Arena and the Gulf of Finland, and then stroll along the pedestrian Yakhtenniy Bridge to the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg Park.

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