The whole world will tune into the 2018 FIFA World Cup curtain-raiser between Russia and Saudi Arabia on Thursday.As Vladimir Putin’s Russia prepares to host the biggest sporting spectacle in the planet, officials and organisers of the tournament will have to work round-the-clock to ensure a smooth ride over the next 32-odd days.Fan violence and racism will be the biggest challenges in front of the Russian authorities which has tarnished the country’s already fragile reputation in the past.Russia, please smile! Time for the World CupBut Russia has pledged to crack down on racism as the country faces increased scrutiny before Putin officially declares the tournament open. Russia will host World Cup from June 14 to July 15 in 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi where the fans are infamous for their short-tempered nature.Russian soccer history has in the past been marred by discrimination against non-white people, and incidents of racist and homophobic chants also shot up over the past year. Racism can be a major hurdle during the 2018 FIFA World Cup (Reuters Photo)FIFA 2018 WORLD CUP: FULL COVERAGEOn top of that, everybody still remembers the ugly scenes after the 2016 European Championship game between England and Russia as fans resorted to riots on the streets of Marseilles, causing damage to property and infrastructure worth millions of dollars.It was the second straight European Championship at which Russia fans were involved in rioting and it came just two years before the country was due to host the World Cup.Robbie Williams, Ronaldo all set for blockbuster opening ceremonyadvertisementAlso the Russian ultras, the name given to football hooligans in the country, are among the toughest to control in such situations.Russian authorities have given plenty of assurances that they will keep these hooligans under control but whether they will be able to keep crowd from hurling racist chants or abuses at the players remains to be seen.Just a couple of months back Russian fans were involved in racist abuse during a friendly match between Russia and France in St Petersburg.World’s eyes on Russia ahead of planet’s biggest sporting extravaganzaA Reuters photographer at pitch level for France’s 3-1 win over Russia heard monkey chants directed at French players on several occasions, including when midfielder N’Golo Kante came to the sideline for a throw-in.There have been other reported cases of racist abuse in the run-up to the tournament.To keep such incidents in check, one of the important steps taken by the authorities is to restrict the sale of alcohol at bars, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and off-licences on the day before and day of any match starting from June 13. In total, 12 matches will be affected at the World Cup by the restriction.2018 FIFA World Cup: Racism, crowd violence major hurdles for Russia Russia President Vladimir Putin has promised a mood of celebration during the 2O18 FIFA World Cup (Reuters Photo)This is just a small step which has been taken to ensure the World Cup remains free of controversies. President Putin has also ensured the world time and again that Russia will provide the best experience to both the players and the guests of the tournament.”For our country, it’s a great joy and honor to receive representatives from the massive footballing family,” Putin said in a video statement released last week. He promised “a real celebration – filled with sporting passion and strong emotions,” he added.The 65-year-old, now in his fourth term as the President, ended his speech in English saying, “Welcome to Russia.”With so much riding on the country and with the Putin government’s reputation at stake, it is now up to the Russian government and public to deliver on all the promises made by the nation’s charismatic leader.