Russian officials sack Zenit stadium builder as major tournaments loom

With less than a year to go before the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup football tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia, authorities in the city have terminated the contract with the firm building the flagship Zenit Arena stadium.

Another firm has now been appointed to finish the 68,000-seat venue on Krestovsky Island, but, with the 2018 FIFA World Cup also looming, the situation is serious enough for Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko to be reporting regularly on progress to President Vladimir Putin.

The sacked firm, Inzhtransstroy-SPB, blamed the city’s mismanagement for delays, and told Russian media that changing contractors at this late stage, when the stadium was 85% complete, would make it "impossible" to finish on time for the Confederations Cup, which kicks off on 17 June next year.

"Such inconsistent decisions of the St. Petersburg Construction Committee, as well as the ever-changing conditions, lack of an agreed project documentation, unresolved issues with the financing only mean that the stadium will not be ready to host the 2017 Confederations Cup," the firm said in a statement.

Now we need to build it with composure– Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko

The futuristic stadium, set to be the home of the Zenit football club, has been under construction since 2007. News agency TASS reported that the cost of the arena has ballooned from an original estimate of $106m to $620.5m.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he was concerned about the situation but expressed hope that the new contractor, Metrostroy, would turn things around, reports AFP news agency.

"Poor quality work has been done on a string of engineering systems," R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying, reports AFP.

"This was all discovered when the contract was terminated. Now we need to build it with composure. We have to start being more positive."

Inzhtransstroy-SPB has accused city authorities of owing it one billion rubles ($16m) and withholding 4.3 billion rubles in extra funding.

Local authorities, in turn, claimed the firm had missed deadlines, violated security regulations and neglected construction standards.

Earlier this month Mutko assured the public that Zenit Arena would be ready for the upcoming tournaments.

"There is no lagging behind that might cause great alarm," he said according to news agency TASS. "Certain backlogs do exist. It is impossible to do without them. In part, this concerns the stadium in St. Petersburg. The target is all building machinery should leave the stadiums in 2017 and should lawns begin to be grown," Mutko said.
He added that he was reporting monthly on progress to Vladimir Putin.

Image: Zenit Arena stadium under construction in June 2015 on Krestovsky Island, St. Petersburg (Jawi374/Wikimedia Commons)

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