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Football fans at the 2018 World Cup could find themselves sleeping on boats or pitching tents in Soviet-era summer camps as Russia reins in spending on the tournament by cutting back on the number of hotels.

When Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament, it promised to provide 100,000 rooms for visiting supporters, far exceeding the 60,000 required by FIFA.

Since then, an economic downturn, worsened by a fall in global oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, has forced Russia to scale back its ambitions.

The government in April axed plans for 25 hotels to save $475m and last month reduced its limit on total spending on the tournament to $11.8bn.

A source close to the organising committee said planners had few other options to reduce costs, and had discussed using boats to provide temporary bed spaces in host cities that are near a river or the coast.


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"You can't cut the stadium, you can't cut the training grounds, but when you have 20-30 hotels of course there is flexibility there," the source said.

In the woods, near the rivers, lakes and water areas, beautiful places. Those places would be available

Maxim Podovinnikov, Region's deputy trade and industry minister

But he warned that cutting back on hotels could mean fans have to make return trips of thousands of kilometres on match days.

The World Cup will take place across 11 host cities, from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Yekaterinburg, 1,700 km east of Moscow on the border where Europe meets Asia.

Organisers in Nizhny Novgorod, a host city about 400 km east of Moscow, plan to let fans stay in vacated university dormitories and say budget cuts will not diminish the accommodation on offer.

"One legacy of the Soviet Union is the Pioneer camps, used by children in summer time" said Maxim Podovinnikov, the region's deputy trade and industry minister, referring to the youth movement in which red-scarved boys and girls were brought up to revere Lenin and become good Communists.

"In the woods, near the rivers, lakes and water areas, beautiful places. Those places would be available," he said.

World Cup planners will be anxious to avoid the debacle with hotels at the Sochi Winter Olympics last year, when some rooms were being finished as athletes and journalists queued to check in.

Since the Games, critics say luxury hotels have struggled to fill rooms in the Black Sea resort, which is also a World Cup venue.

Source: Reuters