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The world’s biggest football stadium is being built in the Chinese city of Guangzhou at an estimated cost of $1.7 billion, with work having started on Thursday.
Guangzhou Evergrande’s eye-catching arena, designed in a lotus flower shape, will boast 100,000 seats and is expected to be completed in 2022, making it bigger than Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
Xia Haijun, president of real estate conglomerate Evergrande, told reporters at the groundbreaking ceremony that he expects the stadium to help take Chinese football to the next level.
“Evergrande Stadium will become a new world-class landmark comparable to the Sydney Opera House and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and an important symbol of Chinese football to the world,” Xia said.
Eight designs, from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, were submitted before Evergrande made the decision to go with the entry from Shanghai-based American designer Hasan Syed.
“We hope the stadium will host the opening ceremony of the 2023 Asian Cup,” Xia added.
As well as the continental tournament, the stadium, with 168 VIP boxes and 16 VVIP boxes, could play a part in the newly-expanded FIFA Club World Cup that was due to take place in China next year. FIFA decided to postpone the competition in March due to the coronavirus outbreak and a new date will be fixed when possible.
Xia also added that Evergrande, concerned there is a lack of top-class football-only stadiums in the country that can host international events such as the World Cup, plan to construct between three and five more stadiums with capacities of 80-100,000 around the country.
Guangzhou Evergrande are one of the biggest teams in Asia. Since being taken over by Evergrande in 2010, the team have won eight Chinese Super League titles and two Asian Champions Leagues. The club play at the city-owned Tianhe Stadium with a capacity of 58,500, attracting an average crowd of just under 46,000 in the 2019 season.