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Russian World Cup venue builds seats outside stadium to meet FIFA capacity standards

Ekaterinburg Arena’s new bleachers are going up outside of the stadium. (Reuters)

Russia plans to issue 2.6 million tickets to fans traveling to the country to watch the World Cup, according to Russian World Cup organizers. Unfortunately for some spectators in Ekaterinburg, the country’s easternmost host city situated in the Ural Mountains, some of those tickets will be for a couple of scary-looking sections built outside of the stadium.

To host World Cup games, stadiums need to hold at least 35,000 spectators, according to FIFA, which approved the reconstruction plan at 60-year-old Ekaterinburg Arena.

“In the case of Ekaterinburg, temporary seats are being installed in order to ensure that the renovation work would conserve the historical facade of the stadium and that maintenance costs are reduced after the FIFA World Cup,” a FIFA spokesman told the Guardian on Wednesday. “Inspection visits and detailed reports have shown that the temporary seats in the Ekaterinburg Arena fully comply with all safety and security requirements.”

FIFA’s official public relations Twitter account later insinuated that the plan was partly approved so that the stadium would remain appropriately sized for the city of 1.4 million after the World Cup ends.

“A World Cup stadium should meet the actual needs of the local population after the event,” the FIFA Media account said, adding a “thumbs up” emoji “to Ekaterinburg.”

Problems of cost overruns related to oversized stadiums built especially for the World Cup in small cities has proven a problem for some host countries, including Brazil. Several of the stadiums built in smaller cities, including Manaus and Cuiaba, have fallen into disrepair or even closed due to high maintenance costs and lack of use.

The solution at Ekaterinburg will help the city avoid that problem, as it can simply disassemble the temporary seats that have been built on either end of the stadium when the tournament concludes. The practicality of the plan, however, hasn’t stopped soccer fans from criticizing the decision, mostly because the view from the temporary stands is far from ideal.

Ekaterinburg Arena is set to host four matches during the World Cup, which kicks off next June.

The tournament will take place in 12 stadiums in 10 Russian cities. That number was decreased from the original bid, which sought to host the tournament in 16 stadiums in 13 host cities.

Several cities already had stadiums large enough to meet FIFA standards, including Moscow’s Otkyrtie Area, Saint Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium, Kazan’s Kazan Arena and Sochi’s Fisht Olympic Stadium. Other cities, such as Ekaterinburg, upgraded older stadiums. Moscow, which will host the majority of the games, as well as the final on July 15, upgraded its flagship Luzhniki Stadium; Volgograd’s Volgograd Arena was rebuilt. Five cities — Kaliningrad, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk and Rostov-on-Don — are getting new stadiums.

Construction is not yet completed on any of the new stadiums, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is confident his country will overcome any final challenges and be ready by kickoff.

“These delays are not critical, there is nothing terrible there, but as I have always said … it is the most difficult thing to resolve tasks at a final stage,” Putin said (via Reuters) this week during a meeting to discuss Russia’s World Cup preparedness. He stressed there’s no time to waste, however.

“If we relax, we will not fully accomplish the work,” he said.

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