Organizers claim 170 people tried to run on field at WCup
MADRID — Two months after the World Cup final was disrupted by four members of the Pussy Riot protest group running onto the field, the head of the local organizing committee claimed security stopped 170 others from doing the same during the tournament.
Organizing committee CEO Alexei Sorokin spoke publicly on Tuesday about the huge number of potential security breaches for the first time.
“Of course, you may repel what I’m saying (about security) by the fact there were a few pitch runners at the final, but I can tell you that in total 170 runners were stopped before that, so it’s quite a good record of police cooperation and police effort to ensure security,” Sorokin said at a soccer conference in Madrid without giving any detail on the incidents.
“There were no complaints about security whatsoever,” he said. “People felt safe. Security was comfortable enough up to the point where it was safe and comfortable. There was a right balance.”
Sorokin did not talk about Pussy Riot member Pyotr Verzilov, who is ill and claims he was poisoned. He and the three other members of the group served 15-day jail sentences for running onto the field during the match between France and Croatia on July 15.
Local organizers are responsible for stadium security at World Cups. In Russia, the organizers made no mention of the thwarted field invasions during the 64-game tournament.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the local organizing committee declined to comment.
Russian law enforcement strived to present a tolerant image during the World Cup, but police have already shown less tolerance against protesters since the tournament ended.
Sorokin also said attendance numbers at the World Cup were one of the good “surprises” for organizers, and called the implementation of Fan IDs one of the most successful achievements by the hosts.
“Fan ID was probably the biggest effort that we undertook,” Sorokin said. “It proved a very nice combination of a security tool and a privilege for fans, an interesting incentive for fans. With Fan ID you could enter the country without a visa and in some countries it saved us because we would never be able to issue so many visas. There was a huge flow of fans within a very short period of time.”
Sorokin said the World Cup was a boost for Russia and its soccer community.
“There were some 200,000 jobs created every year in the preparation period,” he said. “There was a huge number of tourists who came during this period, that’s unprecedented, more than 1 million tourists. I don’t think our country has ever taken that in a short time frame.”
In domestic soccer, Sorokin said attendance numbers doubled after the World Cup compared with the 2015-16 season.
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