MOSCOW, June 7 (RIA Novosti)
The St. Petersburg government has not frozen the construction of a 69,000-seater stadium for Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg, a spokesman for the city authorities told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
The cost of the stadium, expected to host World Cup games in 2018, has soared as its deadline has slipped from the original opening date of 2008.
Igor Pankin, general director of the Transstroi company in charge of building the stadium, told Russia's Vedomosti business daily Thursday that the city government's financing for the project had almost completely dried up since November.
This was linked to the appointment of Georgy Poltavchenko as city governor in August, Pankin said. Zenit spokesman Dmitry Zimmerman said that construction had stopped, Vedomosti reported.
The city denies these claims, a spokesman for the municipal government's construction committee told RIA Novosti.
"In 2013 the stadium will be ready. We are keeping to this date," he said.
The stadium may now cost 33 billion rubles ($1 billion), he said, less than the figure of $1.3 billion quoted by Pankin to Vedomosti, but still far higher than the initial price tag of $250 million when the project started in 2006.
The government's estimate of $1 billion would make the arena the second most expensive football stadium in European history, behind only Wembley in London.
Zenit's new arena, as yet unnamed, is being built on the site of their old home, the Kirov stadium, which dominated the St. Petersburg island of the same name until it was demolished in 2006.
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