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Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium razed as China eyes World Cup bid

Beijing (AFP) – China rapidly tore down the famous Workers’ Stadium in Beijing this week as part of grand plans to revamp its football infrastructure ahead of an expected World Cup bid.

The imposing arena in the heart of the Chinese capital will be almost completely rebuilt and is scheduled for completion in December 2022.

Groups of people gathered to watch as the stadium, a landmark for decades, was levelled within just a few days, with the goalposts poignantly left standing even as the stands crashed down all around.

The Workers’ Stadium was built in 1959 as one of 10 major construction projects to mark the 10th anniversary of communist China.

Fondly known as “Gongti” — an abbreviation of its name in Chinese — the cavernous but crumbling arena was home to Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan and hosted football matches for the 2008 Olympics.

China’s national team matches at the stadium included an infamous defeat to Hong Kong in 1985, after which home fans rioted — and pop concerts.

The Workers Stadium also hosted the 2004 Asian Cup final, when China lost to arch-rivals Japan under contentious circumstances, triggering angry protests by fans.

China is on a football-stadium building and renovation spree, heightening expectations that the country will bid for the World Cup as early as 2030.

The rebuilt Workers’ Stadium, which before being pulled down had a capacity of about 65,000, is pencilled in to host 2023 Asian Cup matches.

New football stadiums are springing up across the world’s most populous country with Guoan’s CSL rivals Guangzhou Evergrande constructing a mammoth 100,000-seat venue.

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