MOSCOW -- The head of the World Cup organising committee has dismissed claims that a plague of locusts could threaten the upcoming tournament in Russia.
Alexei Sorokin was responding to a warning from the agriculture ministry that locusts could devour the grass at stadiums in southern Russian cities.
Sorokin says "locusts present no danger to football fields." He explained that "the grass on the pitch is very short and it's sprayed with certain substances."
Sorokin also added: "We are trying to look at this with humor, can't say anything else. It's not a threat."
Locust swarms are a regular problem in southern Russia, where they often devour whole fields of crops in the warmer months.
Sometimes they cause so much damage that local states of emergency are declared.
The initial warning came from Russian government official Pyotr Chekmarev, who is head of the agriculture ministry's crop farming department.
"We have learnt how to deal with locusts, but how do we not fall into a global scandal with locusts this year?" he said.
"The whole world is coming here. Football fields are green. Locusts love it where there is lots of green. How would they not come to the place where football is being played?"