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Samara braces for 2018 World Cup

Samara, one of the 11 Russia cities that will host 2018 FIFA World Cup events, has altered its initial host bid plan by moving the future stadium outside its historical center.

The 45,000-seat $400-million new sports arena was initially meant to be built on the bank of the River Samara where it flows into the Volga, but that part of the city abounds in historical and architectural monuments dating from the 16th -19th centuries. To avoid exposing them to unnecessary risks, the authorities decided to move construction to a wasteland where a radio center once stood, according to Voice of Russia.

Samara has hosted many football events before, both domestic and international events, deputy head of the local football federation Sergei Marushko told reporters.

"This year, we hosted the national Super Cup match between Zenit (St. Petersburg) and Rubin (Kazan). And last year, we launched our first under-15 international tournament, the Volga Gates. We had Chelsea, Marseille, Espanyol, and other clubs competing here."

The key fan zone will be Kuybyshev Square, the largest square in Europe, sprawling across 17.4 hectares. It was named after prominent Soviet politician Valerian Kuibyshev.

In between the matches, fans may entertain themselves by touring a real bunker. Built during in 1942 and located at 37 meters underground, it was meant as a reserve hideout for the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during World War II, says Emma Khazanova, a local guide.

"In 1942, our city was a reserve capital. The government was here and Stalin himself was expected to come. A bunker was built for him at a depth of 37 meters. After the war, the city became a space capital. The first carrier rockets were produced in Samara, including the one on which the world’s first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin travelled to space."

Samara is also famous for its aircraft plant producing the Tupolev airliners.

In 2014, the local Kurumoch airport will be revamped to receive passenger and cargo planes of all types and sizes. The airport currently handles regular and charter flights from Paris, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Pathos, Varna, Prague, and Dubai as well as from former Soviet republics. There is also a large river port from which boats will take football fans to nearly all the other cities hosting 2018 World Cup events.