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Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 16:45 UK

Moscow confident of final success

By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
BBC News, Moscow

Women dressed in traditional Russian costumes perform at a the Cup Handover ceremony in Moscow (3 April 2008)
This final is the biggest sporting event to hit the Russian capital since 1980

For days, the British media has been filled with doom laden stories about what a disaster the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow on 21 May is going to be. Even the BBC has not been immune.

To believe the reports, thousands of British fans face a series of seemingly insurmountable hurdles to getting to the match.

Visas will not be issued in time, there will be no flights available, Moscow hotels are full, and prices are astronomic.

As it turns out, Moscow does actually have a plan.

This being the biggest sporting event to hit the Russian capital since the 1980 Olympics, officials here have been putting quite a bit of thought in to how to get 50,000 football fans in and out of the city quickly, safely and reasonably cheaply.

'Festival of sports'

The man in charge of that plan is Alexei Sorokin, project manager at Moscow City Council's international department.

He is young, speaks fluent English with a vaguely Canadian accent, and he is supremely confident that his plan will work.

Luzhniki Olympic stadium
We want English fans to come here and enjoy Moscow
Alexei Sorokin
Moscow City Council

Mr Sorokin expects more than 90% of the English fans coming to Moscow to do so as a day trip.

They will fly in from the UK on charter flights in the morning, be met by a fleet of more than 900 buses at their designated airports, and taken directly to the Luzhniki sports complex in the heart of the capital.

Once there, Mr Sorokin says they will find restaurants, bars, and entertainment of all sorts. "It will be a festival of sports," he adds.

Once the match is over, the fans will return to their buses and be taken straight back to the airports to board their charter flights on a first come, first board basis.

"We want English fans to come here and enjoy Moscow," he says. "But there are simply not enough hotel places for everyone to stay, so it's better we do it this way."

Logistical headache

One cannot help feeling the other advantage from Moscow's point of view is that putting the fans straight back on their charter flights will avoid any possibility of groups of drunken fans stumbling around Moscow all night, and getting in to trouble.

Russian riot police in Moscow (archive)
Russian police say they are prepared for the invasion of British football fans

The one big issue that remains is visas. Even there Mr Sorokin is optimistic.

"I hope that in the next few days we can announce a new plan to make it even more simple for English fans," he says.

The plan, which has not yet been approved by the Kremlin, is that those with a ticket in their name will not need to get a visa. The ticket will, in effect, become the visa.

It all sounds wonderful in theory. But to pull off Mr Sorokin's plan will be a huge logistical operation.

It will require a fleet of at least 250 aircraft, nearly a thousand buses, and a great deal of good luck.


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