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As the curtains fall on each football World Cup, the stadiums that once hosted the global sporting extravaganza undergo a series of pragmatic changes.
Beyond the cheers and celebrations, these stadiums face the practical challenges of finding purpose in the post-tournament landscape.
From the adaptive strategies of Qatar's stadiums to the deserted grandeur of Brazil's Maracanã, the evolution of these venues reflects a more straightforward narrative of repurposing, adaptation, and, in some cases, neglect.
Here we look at the state of stadiums following the World Cups in Brazil and Qatar and aim to understand how they fit into post-tournament society.
What will happen to the Qatar World Cup stadiums?
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has left behind a legacy of architectural brilliance with seven state-of-the-art stadiums. As the tournament bid farewell, attention turned to Qatar's apparent commitment to a sustainable future for these World Cup stadiums.
Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Khalifa International Stadium, where Japan made a historic group stage victory over Spain, is the only stadium that will be left as is and will persist as Qatar's national team home.
Stadium 974, Doha
Renowned for its unique design using 974 shipping containers, the ground was praised for being the world's first ‘transportable stadium’.
Due to its ability to be dismantled and reassembled, Stadium 974 (formerly known as the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium) was initially slated for donation post-World Cup. Initially, it was expected to move to Africa, but recent reports suggest that it could end up in Uruguay.
However, recent developments suggest a prolonged stay, potentially playing a significant role in the upcoming Asian Cup in 2024.
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan & Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
These stadiums will undergo a 50% reduction in capacity, with around 40,000 seats being donated to sub-Saharan African nations for football infrastructure. The Qatar Stars League will use both stadiums, ensuring their ongoing contribution to local sports.
Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Located within multiple university campuses at the Qatar Foundation’s Education City, Education City Stadium will remain part of Qatar's education hub. The stadium is reported to be set to retain around half of its 44,667 capacity for use by universities and educational facilities.
It could also potentially become a base for a revamped Qatar women’s team.
Lusail and Al Bayt Stadiums
Hosting historic matches, including Lionel Messi's World Cup triumph at Lusail, these stadiums are set to be repurposed into community hubs. Plans include hotels, shopping malls, cafes, and a sports medicine hospital at Al Bayt.
Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Inspired by traditional woven caps, Al Thumama Stadium will see a reduction in seating capacity and repurposing for sporting facilities. The upper tier is earmarked for a boutique hotel.
Reports hint at delays in the dismantling of stadiums, raising concerns about the timeline and commitment to post-tournament plans. The environmental impact of maintaining rarely used or oversized stadiums remains a challenge for Qatar's sustainability goals.
What happened to the Brazil World Cup stadiums?
After the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the fate of the iconic stadiums tells a tale of glory, decay, and transformation.
Controversy at the Maracana since the 2014 World Cup
At the heart of this narrative stands the legendary Maracanã. The Maracanã, inaugurated in 1950 for the World Cup, holds the bittersweet memory of Brazil's defeat to Uruguay in the final round. The stadium also hosted the final of the 2014 tournament in which Mario Götze’s extra-time goal saw Germany beat Argentina 1-0.
Post-2016 Olympics, however, the stadium entered a period of neglect. Photos surfaced in 2017 revealing a dried-up field, ripped seats, and shattered windows—a stark contrast to its former glory. A debt dispute of R$3 million led to a power outage, symbolising the tumult between the stadium's owner, operator, and the Rio Olympics committee. French group Lagardère stepped in, signing an agreement in 2017 to administer Maracanã.
CNN‘s report in 2017 depicted Maracanã as a ghostly figure, its gates padlocked, tours suspended, and vandalism rampant. Violent incidents and a break-in resulting in the loss of valuable memorabilia painted a grim picture. Despite the challenges, Lagardère's intervention brought hope, with Maracanã reclaiming its status as a footballing icon.
Since, the stadium has received spending of R$15 million on emergency repairs and has turned itself into a fitting final venue again having hosted the Copa America final in 2019 and 2021. The journey from abandonment to hosting major fixtures reflects the enduring spirit of Maracanã.
What will happen to the stadiums after the World Cup? A Brazil case study
Moving beyond Maracanã, other 2014 World Cup stadiums faced diverse destinies. São Paulo's Arena Corinthians, now home to Corinthians, witnessed increased attendance but struggled with maintenance costs.
Brasília's Estádio Nacional Mane Garrincha, named after a Brazilian football legend, stands as one of the most expensive stadiums globally. Despite hosting seven World Cup games in 2014, it faced an uncertain future. Pictured in 2015 as a bus parking lot, the grandeur of its World Cup days seemed to have given way to a utilitarian role. However, like with the Maracanã the ground made a U-turn and even hosted seven games at the 2021 Copa América.
Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, the stage for Brazil's unforgettable 7-1 defeat to Germany, continued its role as Cruzeiro's home. Owned by the state of Minas Gerais, the stadium maintained its essence without significant post-World Cup alterations.
Estadio Beira-Rio, the home stadium for Sport Club Internacional, stood out as one of the few privately-owned venues from the 2014 World Cup. While avoiding major developments, the stadium diversified its usage, welcoming global music acts like Green Day, Paul McCartney, and Bon Jovi for concerts.
Manaus' Arena da Amazonia, notorious for its extreme heat during the World Cup, remained largely untouched. Criticised for its underuse, the stadium opted for occasional gigs, grappling with the balance between functionality and community engagement.
Natal's Arena das Dunas, built exclusively for the World Cup, had to attempt to gain funding through hosting weddings and kids' parties.
The post-2014 fate of Brazil's World Cup stadiums exemplifies the intricate dance between legacy, functionality, and financial viability. As these arenas navigate diverse paths, they stand as testaments to the broader global conversation about the lasting impact of mega sporting events on infrastructure and communities.