ST PETERSBURG: World football will follow in the footsteps of the world’s political leaders next year in staging the qualifying draw for the 2018 World Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The rebuilt and renovated Konstantinovsky Palace in St Petersburg, which hosted G-20 last year, is the venue for the first official event of Russia 2018 on July 25, 2015.

As usual, attendees will include delegates from FIFA’s 209 member associations, 800 media representatives plus an audience of 2,000 people, including leading figures from the world of politics, sport and show business.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, chairman of the local organising committee, said: “We are very happy that FIFA supported the idea of hosting the 2015 preliminary draw in the Konstantinovsky Palace.

“The National Palace is a magnificent architectural complex of the XVIIIth century, and it symbolises the rich cultural traditions of our country. It will be a great introduction to Russia for national associations, guests, commercial affiliates and TV viewers all over the world.”

In fact, the palace lay in ruins after first the Russian Revolution in 1917 and then the second world war. No effective restoration was undertaken until ordered by Vladimir Putin just over a decade ago.

The draw determines which teams will face each other in each qualifying zone for one of the 31 available slots. The World Cup is being staged across 11 host cities and 12 stadia in June and July 2018.

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