After mad dash to wire, Russia’s stadiums open for World Cup
Although some pushed it down to the wire, all 12 stadiums have been completed in time for the June 14 to July 15 World Cup in Russia.
From Moscow’s grand Luzhniki Stadium, which also hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, to the worrisomely late Samara Arena, here is a look at where the football games will be played.
MOSCOW (Luzhniki Stadium)
Opening: 1956 (renovated 2017)
Estimated cost: $385 million (330 million euros)
Matches: June 14 – Russia vs Saudi Arabia; June 17 – Germany vs Mexico; June 20 – Portugal vs Morocco; June 26 – Denmark vs France; July 1 Round of 16; July 11 – Semi Final; July 15 – Final
The historic crucible of Soviet and Russian sport, Luzhniki is the national squad’s home ground and venue for major political events, such as big speeches by President Vladimir Putin. It was gutted and rebuilt for the World Cup, turning it into a football-specific venue. Only its original facade remains.
MOSCOW (Spartak Stadium)
Estimated cost: $235 million
Matches: June 16 – Argentina vs Iceland, June 19 – Poland vs Senegal; June 23 – Belgium vs Tunisia; June 26 – Serbia vs Brazil; July 3 – Round of 16
Russia’s most popular team by a wide margin, Spartak Moscow had no place to call home until the red and white arena opened to great fanfare four years ago. Spartak fans also think their stadium has the best atmosphere, although that point is up for debate.
SAINT PETERSBURG (Saint Petersburg Stadium)
Estimated cost: $700-$775 million
Matches: June 15 – Morocco vs Iran; June 19 – Russia vs Egypt; June 22 – Brazil vs Costa Rica; June 26 – Nigeria vs Argentina; July 3 – Round of 16; July 10 – Semi Final; July 14 – Third Place playoff
Under construction for more than a decade due to bureaucratic red tape and graft, the majestic arena cost about three times more than planned. Russia’s most high-tech arena, with a retractable roof and pitch, will host some of the tournament’s most glamorous matches, including ones played by Argentina and Brazil.
KAZAN (Kazan Arena)
Estimated cost: $230 million
Matches: June 16 – France vs Australia; June 20 – Iran vs Spain; June 24 – Poland vs Colombia; June 27 – South Korea vs Germany; June 30 – – Round of 16; July 6 – Quarter Final
Built for the 2013 University Games, Kazan Arena has grand ambitions, with Russian authorities thinking of proposing it as a future Summer Olympics venue.
SOCHI (Fisht Stadium)
Opening: 2014 (renovated 2017)
Estimated cost: $380 million + $65 million for renovation
Matches: June 15 – Portugal vs Spain; June 18 – Belgium vs Panama; June 23 – Germany vs Sweden; June 26 – Australia vs Peru; June 30 – Round of 16; July 7 – Quarter Final
Situated not far from Putin’s vacation home on the Black Sea and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Fisht Stadium is Russia’s most scenic football venue. Sadly for locals, Sochi has no team and the stadium’s future purpose remains unclear.
VOLGOGRAD (Volgograd Arena)
Estimated cost: $260 million
Matches: June 18 – Tunisia vs England; June 22 – Nigeria vs Iceland; June 25 – Saudi Arabia vs Egypt; June 28 – Japan vs Poland
Reminiscent of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium that hosted the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, Volgograd Arena was built on the site of the Battle of Stalingrad, the heroic turning point of World War II in which two million people died. The stadium is now the focal point of a major city renovation project.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Nizhny Novgorod Stadium)
Estimated cost: $275 million
Matches: June 18 – Sweden vs South Korea; June 21 – Argentina vs Croatia; June 24 – England vs Panama; June 27 – Switzerland vs Costa Rica; July 1 Round of 16; July 6 – Quarter Final
With elegant, wave-like stands resembling those of Marseille’s Stade Velodrome, the Volga River stadium will be home to a brand-new local team after the World Cup.
ROSTOV (ROSTOV ARENA)
Estimated cost: $320 million
Matches: June 17 – Brazil vs Switzerland; June 20 – Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia; June 23 – Korea Republic vs Mexico; June 26 – Iceland vs Croatia; July 2 Round of 16
The southern Russia city sits just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the war zone in east Ukraine, where a four-year conflict has killed more than 10,000 people. Russia is taking extensive security measures to make sure the fans are safe.
SAMARA (Samara Arena)
Estimated cost: $305 million
Matches: June 17 – Costa Rica vs Serbia; June 21 – Denmark vs Australia; June 25 – Uruguay vs Russia; June 28 – Senegal vs Colombia; July 2 Round of 16; July 7 Quarter Final
Samara Arena made international headlines when FIFA noticed a few months ago that it still had no pitch. The grass was finally delivered from Germany in April, and the stadium — while not looking as majestic as originally envisioned after some corners were cut — is ready for action.
SARANSK (Mordovia Arena)
Estimated cost: $265 million
Matches: June 16 – Peru vs Denmark; June 19 – Colombia vs Japan; June 25 – Iran vs Portugal; June 28 – Panama vs Tunisia
No matter which way you put it, Mordovia Arena is a bit of a mystery. Never famous for its football, Saransk had a miniature airport and no modern hotels until the World Cup, with the region best known for being a wilderness where Russia put most of its female penal colonies. The city now has a brand-new arena that will house a third division side.
YEKATERINBURG (Yekaterinburg Arena)
Opening: 1957 (renovated 2018)
Estimated cost: $210 million
Matches: June 15 – Egypt vs Uruguay; June 21 – France vs Peru; June 24 – Japan vs Senegal; June 27 – Mexico vs Sweden
To locals’ distress, fans had a good laugh at Yekaterinburg’s expense for building an arena with two vertiginous stands entirely outside the arena. The stands overlook a nearby highway, although organisers say they also offer a nice city view. The stands will only seat Russians and be dismantled after the tournament, slimming down the stadium to 27,000 seats — a solution FIFA applauds.
KALININGRAD (Baltika Arena)
Estimated cost: $280 million
Matches: June 16 – Croatia vs Nigeria; June 22 – Serbia vs Switzerland, June 25 – Spain vs Morocco; June 28 – England vs Belgium
Russia’s westernmost city, nestled between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, is also one of its most European, having been part of the East Prussia and Germany until World War II. The stadium’s construction got off to a shaky start because organisers — seeking to develop an empty lot on a central city island — decided to build it on a swamp. But once the edifice stopped sinking, workers managed to make up for lost time and it opened to sighs of relief in April.
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