Cost rises, worker deaths and corruption have marred the building of Russia’s World Cup stadiums.
Unlike at the 2014 tournament in Brazil, construction is largely on time. But, like in Brazil, there are concerns about legacy.
- Untested Hierro hopes to repeat Zidane's coaching success
- Height effect: Argentina sizes up Iceland at FIFA World Cup 2018
- Mustaches, silly songs defuse tensions at Russia's World Cup
- Spain in chaos two days before World Cup after coach fired
- Spain-Portugal rivalry leads top games to watch at FIFA World Cup 2018
Only five host cities have top-level clubs, and the government will need to cover the stadiums’ upkeep with subsidies after the tournament.
Here is a look at the 12 stadiums in 11 cities across Russia and the matches being staged there:
COST: 24 billion rubles ($410 million) for rebuild
MATCHES: Russia vs. Saudi Arabia (June 14, opening match), Germany vs. Mexico (June 17), Portugal vs. Morocco (June 20), Denmark vs. France (June 26), one last-16 game (July 1), one semifinal (July 11), final (July 15)
A vast bowl built in the 1950s to showcase the sports might of the Soviet Union, Luzhniki has been transformed to host the World Cup final.
The old stands were ripped out and the athletics track from the 1980 Olympics torn up as the stadium was turned into a football-specific venue.
That increases capacity and comfort, while bringing fans closer to the action.
Luzhniki reopened on Nov. 11 when Argentina beat Russia 1-0 in a friendly. Russian fans praised the rebuild, but many were angry at how police handled the crowds afterwards, forcing some supporters to spend up to 90 minutes getting to nearby public transport in near-freezing conditions.
COST: 14.5 billion rubles ($250 million)
MATCHES: Argentina vs. Iceland (June 16), Poland vs. Senegal (June 19), Belgium vs. Tunisia (June 23), Serbia vs. Brazil (June 27), one last-16 game (July 3)
The home of Russian Premier League champion Spartak Moscow, this stadium opened in 2014 and is already well tested as a venue for Champions League and Confederations Cup games.
It’s usually known as the Otkritie Arena, but FIFA rules on sponsorship mean a temporary name change for the tournament.
The towering statue of a gladiator outside is a nod to Spartak being named after Roman slave rebel Spartacus.
It’s the only World Cup stadium built without government money. Transport is relatively easy from central Moscow, though chronic traffic jams mean most fans prefer the subway.
ST. PETERSBURG STADIUM
CITY: St. Petersburg
COST: 43 billion rubles ($735 million)
MATCHES: Morocco vs. Iran (June 15), Russia vs. Egypt (June 19), Brazil vs. Costa Rica (June 22), Nigeria vs. Argentina (June 26), one last-16 game (July 3), one semifinal (July 10), third-place playoff (July 14)
Almost everything that could go wrong with the St. Petersburg stadium did.
Severe delays and soaring costs were just the start for a project which became notorious for employing North Korean labourers, one of whom is among at least eight to die on the stadium and 17 across all World Cup construction sites, according to the trade union Building and Wood Workers’ International.
A deputy governor of St. Petersburg has admitted his role in a 50-million-ruble ($850,000) scheme to syphon off the stadium’s budget, though officials say the true picture of corruption was much larger.
The spaceship-like arena — which will host a semifinal — remains plagued by a leaking roof and a pitch which grows so poorly it’s had to be replaced repeatedly.
However, Confederations Cup games passed largely without incident and Russia says it’s working to iron out any more problems.
COST: 23.5 billion rubles ($400 million) for initial construction, 4 billion rubles ($68 million) to convert for football
MATCHES: Portugal vs. Spain (June 15), Belgium vs. Panama (June 18), Germany vs. Sweden (June 23), Australia vs. Peru (June 26), one last-16 game (June 30), one quarterfinal (July 7)
As memories of the Sochi Olympics become dominated by Russia’s doping scandals, one part of the legacy will still be gleaming next year.
Nestled by the Black Sea, Fisht Stadium hosted the lavish opening and closing ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and then Confederations Cup games this year.
How that Olympic legacy continues after the tournament isn’t clear; Sochi doesn’t have a football club to use the stadium.
Fans are advised to book hotels near the Olympic Park because the main city of Sochi is more than an hour away up the coast.
COST: 14.4 billion rubles ($250 million)
MATCHES: France vs. Australia (June 16), Iran vs. Spain (June 20), Poland vs. Colombia (June 24), South Korea vs. Germany (June 27), one last-16 game (June 30), one quarterfinal (July 6)
The Kazan Arena opened in 2013 as the first of Russia’s new generation of football stadiums and was used as the prototype for the other new arenas.
It’s a versatile venue which has hosted Confederations Cup football, ceremonies, and even the 2015 world swimming championships, where a temporary pool was installed.
Kazan is a largely Muslim city, but one which wears its religion lightly. Fans shouldn’t expect any restrictions on alcohol sales, for example.
COST: 18.2 billion rubles ($310 million)
MATCHES: Costa Rica vs. Serbia (June 17), Denmark vs. Australia (June 21), Uruguay vs. Russia (June 25), Senegal vs. Colombia (June 28), one last-16 game (July 2), one quarterfinal (July 7)
This stadium in the Volga River city of Samara has proved tricky to finish on time.
Its ambitious design — a glass dome evoking Samara’s history as a center of the Russian space program — has needed extra time to build, and local officials have feuded with the companies doing the work.
One subcontractor allegedly went bankrupt this year after doing just a fraction of work valued at nearly $50 million and had to be replaced.
The stadium is on the outskirts of the city, so fans should allow plenty of time for travel to games including a World Cup quarterfinal.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD STADIUM
CITY: Nizhny Novgorod
COST: 17.9 billion rubles ($307 million) - Russian media estimates
MATCHES: Sweden vs. South Korea (June 18), Argentina vs. Croatia (June 21), England vs. Panama (June 24), Switzerland vs. Costa Rica (June 27), one last-16 game (July 1), one quarterfinal (July 6)
With a roof which seems to float atop white columns, the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium has one of Russia’s more impressive designs and will host a quarterfinal.
It also offers fans views of the Oka and Volga rivers which meet in Nizhny Novgorod, a historic city located around four hours east of Moscow.
Legacy could be a problem since local club Olimpiyets Nizhny Novgorod has averaged barely 1,000 fans per game in the second tier this season.
COST: 19.4 billion rubles ($330 million)
MATCHES: Brazil vs. Switzerland (June 17), Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia (June 20), South Korea vs. Mexico (June 23), Iceland vs. Croatia (June 26), one last-16 game (July 2)
Sweltering summer temperatures could be a problem for teams coming to the southern Russian steppe to play group or last-16 games in Rostov-on-Don.
The stadium sits on the bank of the Don river and is planned to become the center of a vast new housing and leisure development after the World Cup.
Some delays in construction seem to have been remedied. When the tournament is over, the stadium will become the new home of FC Rostov, which beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage last season but has since slipped back into the Russian mid-table.
COST: 17.3 billion rubles ($300 million)
MATCHES: Tunisia vs. England (June 18), Nigeria vs. Iceland (June 22), Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt (June 25), Japan vs. Poland (June 28)
In the city once known as Stalingrad, every spot has wartime history, and the stadium is no different.
Workers had to deal with finding unexploded munitions and soldiers’ corpses from the World War II Battle of Stalingrad during work on the stadium, which sits at the foot of Russia’s best-known war memorial.
That location meant the stadium had to be designed with a low roof-line so as not to obscure views of “The Motherland Calls” sculpture.
The regional governor is hoping the draw brings Germany to his city for a moment of reconciliation 75 years after the Battle of Stalingrad ended.
COST: 12.7 billion rubles ($220 million) for rebuild
MATCHES: Egypt vs. Uruguay (June 15), France vs. Peru (June 21), Japan vs. Senegal (June 24), Mexico vs. Sweden (June 27)
Even before it opens, the stadium in the Ural mountain city of Yekaterinburg is famous for its unusual design.
In an attempt to keep costs down, the stadium has 12,000 temporary seats. So far, so normal for a World Cup.
However, those seats are on vast towers of scaffolding stretching over the walls of the main stadium, which could make being in the top row a vertigo-inducing experience.
Reducing the capacity to 23,000 after the tournament should make life easier for local club Ural Yekaterinburg, which averages crowds of just over 5,000 in the Russian Premier League.
Human Rights Watch alleged that some workers were required to work in temperatures of minus-25 degrees Celsius, and weren’t given enough breaks to stay warm.
COST: 17.1 billion rubles ($295 million)
MATCHES: Peru vs. Denmark (June 16), Colombia vs. Japan (June 19), Iran vs. Portugal (June 25), Panama vs. Tunisia (June 28)
With a population of just 300,000, Saransk was a surprise choice of host city for many Russians.
Located 10 hours by road south-east of Moscow, it’s by far the smallest of the 11 cities but hopes to make up for that with a warm welcome for foreigners at by far the biggest international event in the city’s history.
Many fans arriving for the World Cup won’t be staying in hotels — Saransk simply doesn’t have enough — but on campsites or in newly finished apartment blocks which will be sold after the tournament.
Large parts of the stadium are temporary, meaning it can be reduced to a 25,000-capacity venue after the tournament. Plans are afoot to set up shops and gyms in the structure.
COST: 17.4 billion rubles ($300 million)
MATCHES: Croatia vs. Nigeria (June 16), Serbia vs. Switzerland (June 22), Spain vs. Morocco (June 25), England vs. Belgium (June 28)
Kaliningrad is the capital of a sliver of Russian land cut off from the rest of the country and sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
Until World War II, the city was part of Germany and called Koenigsberg. Officials are hoping its location and history make Kaliningrad an attractive destination for fans from other European countries.
The stadium, which will host only group games, is a compact, modest design which has been built quickly.
Two regional government officials and an engineering company executive have been arrested on suspicion of corruption involving the stadium