Steel construction for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

The biggest sporting event in the world is back

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet, watched by more people than the Olympic Games or the Tour De France, with over half of Earth’s population watching the tournament. Held every four years, this festival of football brings 32 of the world’s best teams to compete for the 36 cm tall, 18 carat gold World Cup trophy, the pinnacle of the sport’s achievements.

Russia was chosen to be the host country for the 2018 World Cup and faced a monumental task. Over a million tourists would be expected to visit the country during the month-long event, which takes place in 11 different cities across the country. This would require a fundamental improvement to the nation’s railway network, moving spectators along the 5,500 kilometres between all the stadiums in 700 new trains. There would also need to be improvements made to hotels, roads and, most importantly, the incredible stadiums where games are played.

Key stadiums in focus

Fisht Stadium was originally commissioned for the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Russia, and was named after Mount Fisht. Like its namesake, the stadium is an impressive sight to behold and a cultural landmark. Unlike a mountain however, it’s a modern marvel of structural engineering and fabrication, sporting an astounding 8,000 tonnes of reinforced steel in the roof and rigging. The roof also features a translucent shell that allows for light to be projected onto the surface, making for some amazing light shows.

By using a sturdy but flexible cut steel framework, engineers can rework the stadium to suit different events and capacities for later use. After the World Cup is over, the whole stadium will shrink to seat 25,000 people instead of World Cup capacity of over 47,000.

Similarly, the Volgograd Arena will be undergoing changes after the Cup is held by the eventual winner. It typically holds 45,000 spectators and will be reworked to hold 35,000 later. It’s a magnificent structure, with a steel lattice structure that is reminiscent of a bird’s nest, and features a “bicycle wheel” roof resting on a steel wire cable frame. Reconfigurability allows venue hosts to accommodate different sports besides football, if required.

While the VTB Arena is not officially a part of Russia’s World Cup, the newly-renovated stadium is a testament to the capability of steel in stadium design. The steel structure was crafted to host not only a football field but also an ice hockey rink, as well as shops, restaurants and a massive car park. Seating could be reconfigured to hold anywhere between 27,000 and 45,000 people depending on the event requirements across two tiers.

Making longevity possible was a complex steel structure that was coated with a special zinc-based anti-corrosion primer to handle the extreme Moscow freeze.

Transformable structures are a relative newcomer to the world of steel engineering, and one that allows for a venue to grow and adapt to change over the years instead of being fixed forever. These innovations allow massive stadiums like these to stay current with the times, instead of having to be torn down entirely when changes are needed. This represents a major shift towards making these buildings more environmentally friendly and able to grow with new demand.

FIFA World Cup stadium infographic

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Image source: FIFA