Russian Deputy Sport Minister Natalia Parshikova has announced plans to open FIFA Fan Fest squares on the Crimean peninsula during the 2018 World Cup.
Zones were rumored to be planned for Simferopol and Sevastopol, as well as smaller sites in Yalta, Yevpatoria and several other large cities for the tournament, which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.
"Crimea is a constituent territory of the Russian Federation which has the same rights as any other federal subject of the country,” Parshikova told TASS on Thursday during the Yalta Economic Forum.
“In order to open a fan zone and hold a fan festival, we need to sign an agreement with [world football governing body] FIFA. The Crimean Football Union remains in close contact with the [Russia 2018] Local Organizing Committee in discussing the issue. I think a Fan Fest square will be definitely opened there,” she added.
FIFA Fan Fest squares are public spaces which welcome thousands of fans from around world during the World Cup to watch matches on giant screens and generally enjoy the football atmosphere.
Inspired by the huge success of unofficial public fan festivals during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, FIFA included the concept into the official program for the 2006 version in Germany.
Russia expects to welcome around one million visitors during the World Cup and a Fan Fest has been planned for each of the 11 World Cup host cities for Russia 2018.
Moscow’s 25,000-capacity version will be located on Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills), by the Moscow Lomonosov State University opposite Luzhniki Stadium, the venue for the tournament’s opening game and final.
Football fans coming to Russia this summer will also have the opportunity to also taste Russian national cuisine and buy souvenirs in specially designated areas.
It had been reported in December that fan zones would not operate in Crimea due to sanctions against the Crimean Football Union, which was not regarded as a member by FIFA.