St. Petersburg, June 17 (IANS) An official opening ceremony for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia was held in front of packed spectators stands of the newly-built football stadium in the countrys second largest city of St Petersburg.
The 20-minute ceremony involved some 1,500 participants, who displayed various scenes of traditions and culture of four cities in Russia, selected to host the global football tournament this year, reported Tass news agency.
An the end of the ceremony, the mascot of the 2017 Confederations Cup, charming wolf Zabivaka, descended on an artificial cloud from the top of the stadium and made a first symbolic kick of the ball across the pitch to signal the opening of the tournament.
The over 68,000-seat capacity stadium designed to host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches was laid down in the western portion of Krestovsky Island in St. Petersburg in 2007. The construction project was amended three times: in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
The new football arena in St. Petersburg is hosting the opening and final matches of the Confederations Cup, also dubbed as the Tournament of Champions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino officially opened the tournament.
Following the welcome speech of Putin, Infantino began his speech in speaking at first in Russian.
“Dorogie dryzya (dear friends), dobro pozhalovat (welcome). Welcome to the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia,” Infantino said.
“I would like to thank four Russian cities for their fantastic work (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi and Kazan). Spasibo Rossiya (Thank you Russia),” he added.
“Come to Russia! You will feel the best football tournament ever.”
The FIFA Confederations Cup is viewed by experts as a rehearsal for the organizers, with only one year to go to the FIFA World Cup.
This year’s tournament is held between June 17 and July 2 at four stadiums in Russia and they are Spartak Stadium in Moscow, St. Petersburg Stadium, Fisht Stadium in Sochi and the Kazan Arena in Kazan.
Participants in the 2017 Confederations Cup are hosts Russia, 2014 FIFA World Cup winners Germany, 2015 Copa America champions Chile, 2015 AFC Asian Cup champions Australia, 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup winners Mexico, 2016 UEFA Euro Cup champs Portugal, OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) Nations Cup victors New Zealand and 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) champions Cameroon.