Whether you’re a fan watching at home or one of the lucky few that made it to Russia, it’s very likely you’ve noticed the perfect green pitches and the amazing spaces that hold the competition. The group stage just finished, thus, all the twelve stadiums have seen some action as well as some incredible moments. Nevertheless, there is much more to the Russian World Cup than meets the eye. The largest country in the world has spent the largest budget of all time for this event: nearly twice as much as Brazil did four years ago, and it involves much more than just stadiums and arenas as you might have already guessed.
Iconic spaces for iconic moments
Uruguay, the first world champions in history, lifted the trophy in their newly built Centenario Stadium in Montevideo (http://foothunch.com/uruguay-1930-the-first-world-cup-ever-held/) and thus, the 1930 Uruguay World Cup set the bar for the years to come.
The day of June 22nd, 1986 will be forever remembered by the British with this outstanding photo.
Indeed the world cup has given us some truly memorable moments in some amazing places. When we remember Pele’s last international match, the Hand of God and the goal of the century by Maradona, we remember the mythical “Estadio Azteca”; when we remember England hoisting the Jules Rimet trophy we see Wembley and its iconic arch; The Maracanazo wouldn’t have been the same if it was played on some anonymous pitch. So, beyond FIFA’s requirements, it is no surprise that hosting countries make it a priority to have top-level stadiums not only for only fans and teams to feel comfortable, but hopefully to be architectural and cultural landmarks, as well as possible historical sites.
So what is the Russian bid for this world cup? From the 7 brand new venues, 3 already existing ones and 2 renovated ones, some stand out and will hope to reach said legendary status.
The home of a semi-final and the third-place match, Saint Petersburg Stadium by the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa (RIP) is said to be the most expensive stadium in history (about $1 billion) and was in construction for about a decade. Its vertiginous stands are spectacular, the views out on to the Gulf of Finland from behind the seats are wonderful and the ‘Spaceship’ design is unmistakable. Without a question, the 68,000 seats of the soon-to-be next Zenit St. Petersburg’s side home will be packed.
The stadium will be a venue for the 2020 Euro.
The Ekaterinburg Arena (even though it has seen the last of its world cup action) has also caught a lot of attention thanks to its very unusual temporary stands behind each goal that sits outside the main stadium structure. These were placed in order to reach the 35,000 capacity required by FIFA. Thankfully the renovation also kept its beautiful original façade from when it was built in 1957.
The stadium already hosted four matches for the groups stage.
Nevertheless, the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow is probably this World Cup’s most worthy venue for some iconic football to be played. Formerly known as the Central Lenin Stadium, it holds up to 80,000 people and has already hosted the 1980 Olympics, the 1999 UEFA Cup final, the 2008 Champions League final and the 2013 World Athletics Championships, and it’s also the national’s team home. This is a stadium whose long history can be felt as soon as you walk in: there’s a big Lenin statue guarding the front entrance and it has also kept its classic soviet façade after a modernization worthy of a world cup final.
The stadium has been remodeled twice, in 1997 and 2014-2017.
Seizing the moment
For the Russian government, the World Cup has created a perfect opportunity that goes well beyond just football. An estimated $14 billion euro has been poured into the country’s economy, with the objective of kickstarting a very ambitious development plan spread across several areas (https://foothunch.com/the-economic-implications-of-doing-the-world-cup-in-russia/).
Setting aside the fact that this, and basically all Russian sides have lived on the shadow of the former USSR teams, and a world cup that gives them a shot at redemption in front of their home crowd, it might seem that 2018 has been perfect. (http://foothunch.com/what-does-it-mean-to-play-at-home/). With Russia going through the group stage it already has been. But the world cup means more than just competitive objectives.
Of the $14 billion invested the most significant items were transport infrastructure ($6.1 billion), stadium construction, ($3.4 billion), and accommodation ($680 million). The world cup is by the numbers, a turning point for Russian infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum report, Russia ranked 93rd out of 148 countries surveyed in terms of the quality of its logistics and infrastructure. And with the competition being held across 11 different cities throughout the world’s largest country it only made sense to prioritize this aspect for the Eurasian giant. Furthermore, all of the stadiums built or renovated will later be the permanent homes for existing football teams (albeit most of them belong to lower tiers) and are also the epicenter for further city development.
This is the case of Rostov-On-Don, where the Rostov Arena will be the focal point for a wider redevelopment of the Don’s left bank – with shops, restaurants and business premises planned while it will also accommodate FC Rostov’s side (widely known as the ‘russian Leicester’), not to mention a newly built airport.
Something similar is expected to happen at the Ktyabrsky Island in Kaliningrad and its surroundings which will benefit from a new residential development as well as parks and riverside embankments thanks to the new Kaliningrad Stadium. Moreover, important cities as are Moscow and St. Petersburg will also benefit from several new or modernized railway/metro stations for better accommodating the massive amounts of fans that are currently flooding their streets.
Which is your favorite stadium? Do you think Russia has given us the best venues for a world cup yet? What has been this world cup’s most iconic moment so far? Sound off in the comments.