Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin does not intend to visit Zurich to support his country’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup ahead of Thursday’s vote, his spokesman revealed on Tuesday.
“In the prime minister’s agenda on December 2 there are events planned in Kaliningrad where questions of public health will be discussed,” said Dmitri Peskov in comments reported by the website Gazeta.ru.
Peskov did not rule out Putin’s presence at the vote, but he could not be contacted in the evening.
Russian sports minister Vitali Moutko said that Russia’s 30-man delegation in Zurich would be led by deputy prime minister Igor Chouvalov, according to the Itar-Tass agency.
In 2007, as president, Putin was congratulated for playing a key role in the decision to award the 2014 Winter Olympics to the Russian city of Sotchi, after personally supporting the city’s candidacy in Guatemala.
However, according to an unnamed government official cited by Gazeta.ru, there was no need for Putin to make the trip to Switzerland.
“There was a significant number of members of the International Olympic Committee in Guatemala who were undecided (in 2007),” said the official.
“The FIFA members are less numerous and those that have to vote have already made their decisions. There’s no point in convincing them.
“We also have to be prudent so as not to risk being suspected of putting pressure on FIFA members.”
FIFA’s executive committee will on Thursday vote to decide which countries will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.
Russia’s rivals in the battle to organise the 2018 tournament are England and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and outsiders Belgium-Netherlands.
British prime minister David Cameron has already declared that he will be in Zurich to support England’s final presentation on Thursday.