Ekaterinburg, or as a Russian would say, Yekaterinburg is the furthest East of all of the venues for this years Russia world cup and the 4th largest city in the country. It is also home to FC Ural of the Russian Premier League. It will host 4 group games, showcasing the likes of Sweden, Mexico, France and Japan.
To put the vastness of Russia into some kind of context, Ekaterinburg is well over 1,000 miles East of Moscow (at least a 24 hour drive in a car), however to reach the East coast of Russia would take another 5 times that, being a further 5000 miles East. But that’s enough of the geography lesson.
So why has Ekaterinburg made our A-Z?
Well, simple really. The stadium is mental.
Due to it only holding 23,000 it didn’t fit the criteria for a World Cup venue – FIFA rules stating a ground must hold 35,000 to host.
So how did the Russian authorities get around this inconvenience? Develop the ground? Nope. Choose a different venue? No, not that either. They just stuck an extra 12,000 seats outside the ground. It’s obvious really.
As the stadium is a protected landmark, because of it’s Soviet neoclassical style (me neither), the authorities had to preserve the outside. So instead, they spent £150m to rearrange the furniture inside, and built 2 temporary stands outside the ground at either end which fans could watch from through 2 gaping holes in the stands.
At the end of the World Cup, the ground will return to 23,000 capacity and presumably will become a lot more windy. But for now, its a sight to behold and gives paying fans a view they are unlikely to experience again. It’s not the most obvious way to deal with a problem like this, but I have to admire the ingenuity of it. I almost wish I could make it to a match there myself.
This link to a 360° video should give you a better idea of the set up.