Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, has said the new city of Diamniadio is positioning itself as a “major sports centre” in Africa after work commenced on the new Stade du Sénégal.

The 50,000-capacity stadium will be the centrepiece of Senegal’s staging of the 2022 Summer Youth Olympic Games and work is expected to be complete by August 20, 2021. Located some 30km from the capital Dakar, the new stadium in Diamniadio will also come complete with two training grounds, one of which will be equipped with an athletics track and a 2,000-seat grandstand.

The €238m (£198.9m/$257.1m) project will source its energy needs entirely from a solar power plant, with Turkish construction company Summa landing the contract to develop it last month. Senegal is investing in sports facilities, with the 15,000-capacity Dakar Arena opening in August 2018.

Speaking at a ceremony yesterday (Thursday) to mark the start of work at the new stadium, Sall (pictured) said: “After the Dakar Arena, a multifunctional sports complex with 15,000 seats, and the Stade du Sénégal, whose work starts today, Diamniadio is taking on the appearance of a major sports centre in Africa.”

The Stade du Sénégal project was revealed as Dakar was confirmed as the first African host of an Olympic event in October 2018. Senegal has a large youth population and views the YOG as a catalyst for engaging young people and developing the country’s sport and youth policy.

Significant investments are being made toward youth and sport as part of the country’s overarching framework ‘Plan Sénégal émergent’, which sets out President Sall’s vision to 2035. Sall said he had the idea for the new stadium following a meeting with FIFA president Gianni Infantino after watching Senegal’s 2-1 2018 World Cup win over Poland at Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia.

Sall said the new “major sports infrastructure” will be built to the standards of world football’s governing body and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He added that it will provide a yardstick of the “inestimable value” of the Senegalese youth and of what sport represents in the country.

Sall said he has also instructed Minister of Sports, Matar Bâ, to work with the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) to attract the Africa Cup of Nations to Senegal. The West African country last hosted the continent’s showpiece national team tournament in 1992.

“I ask the Minister of Sports to work with the FSF so that Senegal can organise a CAN in the next four (years),” Sall said, according to Senegalese news agency APS. “The new stadium, the new temple of our valiant football Lions, the Léopold Sédar Senghor stadium, which will be renovated and upgraded, and the upgrading of our regional stadiums, offers us the opportunity, and we are ready to seize it.”

Image: Présidence du Sénégal