Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena has transitioned from its traditional sporting use as the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship draws to a close.
The International Handball Federation’s (IHF’s) showpiece national team tournament has been co-hosted by venues across Sweden and Poland since January 11, with the action now coming to a close.
While the early stages of the Championship took place in Gothenburg’s Scandinavium, Jönköping’s Husqvarna Garden, Kristianstad Arena and Malmö Arena, the focus for the action in Sweden reverted to Tele2 Arena from the quarter-final stage on Wednesday.
Tele2 Arena is also hosting semi-finals action today (Friday) before taking centre stage with Finals day on Sunday. The stadium, with its retractable roof, is better known as the home of Allsvenskan football clubs Hammarby and Djurgården, but has prior handball experience having also held the finals of the 2020 EHF European Men’s Championship.
Commenting on the challenges of adapting Tele2 Arena to become a handball arena, Robert Roos, production manager for stadium operator Stockholm Live, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that installing a competition floor was the first challenge.
This work was completed in December, with Roos stating four layers were used with different floors between the usual artificial grass and the plastic mat that the handball teams play on. Since the beginning of January, almost 50 people have worked on the rebuild.
Roos said: “After the field coverage, 25 trailers with stands plus seven trailers with just technology were driven in. There is a lot to think about. Lighting is an example. It is a completely different match light to illuminate a handball match than a football match.”
With a handball court only covering around 10% of the football playing surface, a temporary 7,000-seat stand has been set up in the middle of the pitch. Roos explained: “The difference from EC 2020, when we also arranged the playoffs here, is that we have now set up ‘curves’ that make that stand rounded, it is the biggest visual improvement since the championship two years ago.”
Tele2 Arena is offering a seating capacity of around 22,000 for the World Championship. Robert Tham, who is part of the event’s local organising committee in Stockholm, believes that Sweden would not have had the chance to stage the event if the possibility of repurposing Tele2 Arena had not existed.
Hosting rights were awarded to Sweden and Poland by the IHF in November 2015, with Tham adding: “We were able to stand out by converting a large football stadium.”