The FIFA World Cup trophy returned to Moscow on Sunday, completing a nine-month journey of more than 140,000km that saw the coveted golden trophy visit 50 countries ahead of this summer’s tournament in Russia.
The trophy was presented to football fans and the media by numerous dignitaries and former sports stars in the center of the Russian capital, including German World Cup winner Lothar Mattheus.
Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin spoke of the Russian capital’s proud sporting history as it prepares to be the focal point for the World Cup, where it will host 12 games in all at two stadiums, including the opening game and final at Luzhniki Stadium.
"Moscow is a sports capital: we hosted the Olympic Games [in 1980] and dozens of world championships in various disciplines," Sobyanin said, TASS reported.
"Today Moscow is becoming the world’s football capital and we are receiving as a long-time friend the World Cup Trophy, which was already in Moscow and then traveled through dozens of cities and again returned to Moscow.
“Together with football fans and football followers from all over the world, we are waiting for the referee’s first whistle at the Luzhniki main arena. All of Moscow’s guests will enjoy not only football and top-class stadiums but also a splendid city: museums, theaters, parks and, what is the main thing, the smiles and hospitality of Muscovites," the mayor added.
The trophy was making a return to the Russian capital for the first time since September, which was when its record-breaking tour began.
After visiting cities across Russia, it continued its journey to 50 other countries across six continents, before returning to Russian shores in Vladivostok at the start of May.
Since then it has been making its way back to the Russian capital, where it arrived on Sunday, capping a journey of 146,835km which had taken in a total of 91 cities.
The tour has allowed more than 300,000 people to view the coveted 18-carat gold, 36cm-high trophy, which has been awarded to World Cup winners since 1974.
The trophy has embarked on a global tour ahead of the World Cup for each tournament since 2006 in Germany. This year’s tour was the longest ever and gave a host of new cities the chance to see the trophy, which is usually kept at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.
The World Cup trophy will be on display until June 7 in a special installation on Moscow’s Pushkin Square, which fans can visit from 13:00 to 21:00 to have a photo taken with the prize that the 32 teams will be desperate to get their hands on this summer.
The World Cup kicks off in Moscow on June 14, when Russia take on Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium. A total of 64 games will be played at 12 stadiums across 11 host cities, with the final being played at Luzhniki on July 15.