YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) — They are far from the action and vertigo-inducing for some.
The World Cup stadium in Yekaterinburg has two stands that are built outside the main structure. They sit atop towers of uncovered scaffolding.
The stands are temporary and will be dismantled after the stadium’s four World Cup games in the Ural Mountains city. The arena has already hosted one match in the tournament, and its second took place Thursday between France and Peru. Here’s a look at the stands at the stadium, which offer something fans can’t experience at any of the 12 other venues hosting World Cup matches in Russia:
AVOIDING A WHITE ELEPHANT
Facing a FIFA demand for a 35,000-seat stadium, local officials opted for this solution because they wanted to preserve the stadium’s facade, which was originally built in the Soviet era in the 1950s.
Another reason was to prevent it from becoming a so-called white elephant — largely unused venues that would need excessive maintenance costs once the tournament is over as has happened after previous World Cups and at other major global sports events.
France coach Didier Deschamps took note of the structures before of his team’s Group C game against Peru on Thursday, calling them “unusual” and “original.”
The two stands located behind the goals seat 6,000 spectators each and will be dismantled after the tournament is over, reducing stadium capacity to 23,000.
That should make it easier for local club Ural Yekaterinburg to maintain it. Its average crowd was just over 8,000 in the Russian Premier League this season. Yekaterinburg is the easternmost host city on the boundary between Europe and Asia, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of Moscow.
The stands, however, present challenges for the fans, especially those who have tickets for the top rows. First, they need to be ready to climb about 300 steps on the way to their seats. And once there, at the height of about 45 meters (148 feet), it’s preferable not to look down for those who get dizzy from heights.
The field is quite a distance from those seats and it’s not a bad idea for the spectators to come equipped with binoculars. And being unprotected high in the stands means the fans are fully exposed to the elements, and there has been no lack of rain and windy conditions in Yekaterinburg during the tournament.
Human Rights Watch alleged that some workers during the stands’ construction were required to work in temperatures of-25 C (-13 F), and weren’t given enough breaks to stay warm.
“It’s very far from the game,” said David Flores, who traveled from the Peruvian capital of Lima to support his national team. “In my country, the stands are much closer to the pitch. I prefer to be closer.”
He was speaking before the France-Peru match and shortly after rain stopped and more showers were forecast for later Thursday, but it didn’t seem to bother him much.
There is some solace though. The tickets for the stands are the cheapest that can be bought at the arena.