With just over two months to go until the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, the biggest sporting event of the year, some of the key contributors who make the tournament possible, the volunteers, have taken centre stage.

Training for volunteers who will help to run the competition in Kazan, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Sochi has already started, and the training programme was presented to the media and some high-profile guests on Tuesday, 11 April. In Moscow, the presentation at the Russian State Social University, home to one of the capital’s Volunteer Centres for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, was attended by Vitaly Mutko, Deputy Prime Minister of the RF and Chairman of the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee, Russia 2018 Ambassador Sergei Belogolovtsev, and Spartak Moscow and Russia midfielder, Aleksandr Samedov.

The event was also attended by representatives of McDonald’s, which is helping to train volunteers in welcoming disabled people to the tournament.

"We support our partners’ intention to create an accessible environment and support an active lifestyle," explained Svetlana Polyakova, PR and Communications director of McDonald’s Russia. "And our goals coincide – we know firsthand that the work of a volunteer during any sports event is very important and extremely difficult, especially when it comes to helping disabled people.

"The experience of such professionals, the specialists of the McDonald's program, will certainly be useful for our volunteers in their efforts to make football matches accessible to all people without exception. Moreover, in Russia the programme 'To the FIFA Confederations Cup with McDonald's', within which children can make their dream come true and walk their football idols to the field, will be quite unique. For the first time in the history of the FIFA Confederations Cup, disabled children will participate in it."

Carles Puyol, ex-Barcelona and Spain captain, spoke to volunteers via a special video address. The 2010 FIFA World Cup winner helped to launch the LOC’s Volunteer Programme and explained that more than 175,000 people from Russia and other countries volunteered for this year’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.

"On the pitch, the players are the most important people. Off the pitch, it’s the volunteers who play the biggest role," Puyol said. "You are the face of your country and you have the honour of representing it. You are the ones who get to help out both the participants and the spectators. You have an important and interesting task ahead of you that I hope you will enjoy. I wish you luck and I am certain that your work will be a great success."

Vitaly Mutko welcomed volunteers, reminding them of their importance to the competition and wishing them luck for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017. "Volunteers create the unique festive atmosphere. Your smiles, skills and warmth set the tone for Russian and international fans who will attend the games," Mutko said. "I am confident you will be professional, patient and disciplined. I have no doubt that taking part in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup will be a joy for each and every one of you."

Over the past years, FIFA and the LOC have been working on making the 2018 FIFA World Cup accessible to all. This includes ensuring adequate infrastructure solutions and services in and around stadiums.

Four Special Access Ticket categories were created for disabled people and people with limited mobility, which are available for all matches so that all fans can have the most enjoyable experience possible.

Following the festive events, volunteers proceeded to the lecture halls in their groups for basic training. On the first day, volunteers studied Confederations Cup and World Cup history, learned about sustainable development, the physical infrastructure and other aspects of the tournament’s legacy, crosscultural interaction, volunteer responsibilities and code of conduct etc.

Following completion of basic training, volunteers will be trained in their specific areas of responsibility, followed by on-site training.

More than 2,000 volunteers have already undergone training for the Confederations Cup and Russia 2018. In total, over 30,000 will pass through the programme. The second phase of training for Russia 2018 volunteers will run from October 2017 through March 2018.

A version of this article is also available in Russian.

Published 18/04/2017