Beijing’s new Workers’ Stadium to be Asian Cup centrepiece

The new Beijing Workers’ Stadium has been confirmed as the main venue for China’s staging of football’s 2023 Asian Cup, with preparations commencing in earnest with the formation of the local organising committee.

China initially pledged to build new stadia in seven of the 12 planned host cities after it was awarded hosting rights in June last year. This plan was then revised in December when the Chinese Football Association (CFA) confirmed 10 host cities – Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen and Suzhou.

The 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Local Organising Committee was officially established in Beijing yesterday (Thursday), where it was announced that the capital will host the tournament’s final, along with its opening and closing ceremonies, and group stage games.

The committee is to be co-chaired by Gou Zhongwen, Director of China’s State General Administration of Sport and Chen Jining, Mayor of Beijing. Deputy Director of the State General Administration of Sport, Du Zhaocai, who is also a member of the FIFA Council of world football’s governing body, has been named as the executive chairman.

Du told state news agency Xinhua: “Since China was awarded the hosting right of 2023 AFC Asian Cup on June 4 last year, we have put great efforts into preparations for the tournament.

“Although we hosted our first Asian Cup in 2004, its 2023 edition is completely different as it is the first time that the tournament will be held in 10 cities. The COVID-19 pandemic made our challenge even harder.

“The construction work of 10 professional football stadiums can’t be delayed. We made a very detailed epidemic prevention plan to guide the cities to resume construction. In Chengdu and Shanghai, workers went back to the construction sites in February.”

The committee said design plans for nine stadia have been approved by the AFC, with the renovation plan for Workers’ Stadium (pictured in its old guise) submitted to Asian football’s governing body. Workers’ Stadium was demolished in August as part of plans to rebuild the 60-year-old venue.

The stadium had a capacity of 66,000 and served as the main venue for the 1990 edition of the Asian Games multi-sport event. Over the years it has staged major music concerts and football matches, and hosted fixtures at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The venue is set to be rebuilt and it is hoped the new stadium will be completed by December 2022.

Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, the new home of Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG and a venue for the Asian Cup, was put into service last month and is set to make its debut when staging the final of the 10th season of the League of Legends World Championship esports event on October 31.

August also saw plans unveiled for an iconic new 60,000-seat stadium in China’s ancient capital city of Xi’an. The proposals were released by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), with the company focusing on legacy operations such as domestic and international football matches and concerts, as well as the Asian Cup.

Du said the Asian Cup’s 10 stadia will apply 5G, Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence and other advanced technology. He stated: “All the modern facilities will help spectators enjoy the football matches in a better way.”

The staging of the 2023 Asian Cup is widely being looked upon as China’s opportunity to prove its hosting credentials as part of long-held ambitions to land the FIFA World Cup. Du added: “After the Asian Cup, we will have 10 professional football stadiums, which are all modern venues with advanced technology.

“We also plan to cooperate with the AFC and FIFA to cultivate our staff. They will become experienced experts for international football events. This will lay a solid foundation for us to host any world-level football tournament.”

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