MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia officially pulled out of the race to host the 2022 World Cup finals Friday, with the aim of solely concentrating on their bid for 2018.
"Russia is setting its sights exclusively on being awarded the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup and has formally withdrawn its bid for the 2022 edition of the world's biggest and most important single sports event," the Russian bid committee said in a statement.
"We hope to be entrusted with the hosting of FIFA's flagship event and are ready to inspire the global football family in 2018," the statement quoted Russia's bid chairman and the country's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko as saying.
Russia and England are bidding to stage the 2018 World Cup along with joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands while Japan, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Australia are candidates for 2022.
Last week, England officially withdrew from bidding for the 2022 tournament after the United States had pulled out of the running for the 2018 event, making certain it would be held in Europe. FIFA rules prohibit successive World Cups being staged on the same continent.
The bidding process has been overshadowed by allegations of vote-selling, with two members of FIFA's executive committee, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, being provisionally suspended for 30 days.
(Reporting by Gennady Fyodorov; Editing by Clare Fallon)