Moscow (Russia) (AFP) – Russia’s inside-out World Cup arena with soaring temporary stands shooting up into the sky has passed its first formal test: it doesn’t sway in the wind when filled with fans.
The peculiar venue in the industrial city of Yekaterinburg has attracted its fair share of fascination — and some ridicule — heading into the June 14-July 15 football extravaganza.
Its two 42-metre-tall (138-foot-tall) extensions at each goal end stand on a mesh of rickety-looking metal poles built on plots of land adjacent to the stadium.
The vertiginous seats at the very top offer fans a direct view of the outer edge of the arena’s circular roof.
One side of the stands overlooks a nearby highway.
Russian Premier League security officer Alexander Meytin admitted on Tuesday that he had some trepidations heading into last weekend’s first official test match.
But he stressed that nothing went wrong — and the stands stood rock solid in place.
“We had concerns about Yekaterinburg,” Meytin told reporters.
“It was the first time we used the temporary stands and everything went well,” he said.
“The fans were safely seated and (the stands) did not sway in the wind.”
The nose-bleed inducing additions to Russia’s most easterly World Cup stadium were erected to fit FIFA’s minimum stadium capacity requirement.
The additions will make Yekaterinburg Arena into a 35,000-seater that will shrink back down in size to 23,000 once the stands are dismantled after its four group stage matches.
The head of the construction company behind the additions told AFP in November that the stands were completely safe and getting an unfairly bad review in the press.
“In addition, you can see a beautiful panoramic view of Yekaterinburg itself since the stadium is in a central part of the city,” Sinara-Development CEO Timur Ufimtsev said at the time.
Russia’s organising committee chief Alexei Sorokin said many fans lingered on after Sunday’s Premier League match between Ural Yekaterinburg and champions Spartak Moscow to snap photos of the new arena.
“The temporary stands withstood being filled by supporters very well, just like any other stands would,” said Sorokin.
Yet foreigner thrill seekers looking for a World Cup adrenalin rush are in for a disappointment — the seats fall into the cheapest category reserved for Russian supporters.
Sinara-Development said it could not simply rebuild the existing 60-year-old arena from the ground up because it had to preserve its “historical” Soviet facade.