KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: The old outer walls are all that remains of the original Luzhniki Stadium which will host the World Cup Final next July.
After a five-year, €300m rebuilding project, one of world sport’s most historic venues is ready for the action.
Crowd exit problems which marred the reopening match between Russia and Argentina last month will be resolved by the time Brazil fly in for the next test on March 23.
Nickolai Gulayev, Moscow city’s head of tourism and sport, is confident that lessons have been learned and specific issues will not recur.
He said: “We did have a problem with an overcrowded exit at the reopening match which caused problems for fans leaving the stadium. There were particular reasons: one metro entrance was closed and some refurbishment was still taking place.
“We have taken into account all the mistakes and will not allow them to happen again on March 23.”
Also on March 23 the full FIFA-style three-tier safety and security systems will be in operation including the Fan-ID concept rolled out at the Confederations Cup last summer. Two further pre-finals matches are expected but the opposition has yet to be confirmed by the Russian Football Union.
A 25,000 capacity fan fest site will sit on the opposite side of the river below the Moscow state university in one of the distinctive so-called ‘seven sisters’.
Once labelled the Lenin Stadium, Luzhniki was built in 1956 with a capacity of 100,000; its largest attendance was 110,000 for a Moscow club derby.
Past events included the old Soviet Spartakiade extravaganzas as well as the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics competition at the 1980 Olympic Games.
Later it hosted the 2008 Champions League Final in which Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties following the 1999 UEFA Cup final between Parma and Marseille.
No more athletics
No trace remains of the track and field facilities. They have been scrapped in the latest five-year redevelopment funded in its entirety by the Moscow city government.
The future is somewhat clouded. Luzhniki will be the main home for the Russian national team and can host concerts in the style of previous stagings for the likes of Madonna and the Rolling Stones.
But Luzhniki will not have a resident club now that Spartak, finally, have a home of their own . . . and history does not pay the bills.