In the latest chapter of the long, sordid book regarding World Cup and Olympic host sites, Russia has found a way to comply with FIFA guidelines in a creative — and also nerve-inflaming — fashion.
FIFA mandates that World Cup venues seat 35,000 spectators at a minimum, and Central Stadium in Yekaterinburg, the easternmost venue for the competition, sat just 27,000 since it was built in 1957. To meet FIFA’s requirements, construction crews added temporary grandstands outside the open areas on each end of the stadium.
If you think that looks ridiculously unsafe, you’re not the only one.
The added seats will lift the capacity to around 45,000, well above the FIFA mandate. The stadium is primarily used as the home of FC Ural, a Russian Premier League club, and it’s also been a popular site for speed skating events. Four World Cup group stage games will be played there between June 15-27 next year.
The source of the labor for Russia’s World Cup infrastructure has stirred controversy, as North Korean migrant workers helped build a stadium in St. Petersburg and at least one of them died doing so. Legitimate questions can be asked of how many others contributed to projects like the Central Stadium grandstands, and under what conditions.
Unfortunately, as long as there’s major money to be made for FIFA and other partners through international soccer tournaments, safety and practicality will take a backseat. All we ask is if you’re one of the fans that ends up sitting in those Central Stadium bleachers, just be careful.