China 2023 Asia Cup springboard to FIFA event



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China 2023 Asian Cup Beijing Workers Stadium Image: Yoshito Isono & structurae.net

The new Beijing Workers’ Stadium will serve as the main venue for China’s staging of football’s 2023 Asian Cup. Preparations are on in full swing and a local organizing committee has been formed for the same.

China is bending over backwards to ensure that the flagship event is a roaring success to open the door for landing big-ticket soccer events.

Initially, China had pledged to build new stadia in seven of the 12 planned host cities after it landed hosting rights for the sporting showpiece 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 recently wherein it was announced that China’s capital Beijing 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, China’s State General Administration of Sport and Chen Jining, Mayor, Beijing.

The 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.

Zhaocai told mediapersons, “Since China was awarded the hosting right of 2023 AFC Asian Cup on June 4th, 2019, 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,” Zhaocai added.

The committee informed that nine stadia design plans have been greenlighted by the AFC, with the rehabilitation plan for Workers’ Stadium submitted to Asian football’s governing body. Workers’ Stadium was torn down in August this year as part of plans to rebuild the 60-year-old facility.

The Workers’ Stadium boasted capacity of 66,000 and was the main venue for the 1990 edition of the Asian Games multisport event. Over the years, it has hosted major music concerts and football matches, and also played host to fixtures at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The venue is set to be reconditioned and it is hoped the new arena will be completed by December 2022.

Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, the new home arena 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 31st.

This year in August plans were also unlocked for a legendary stadium in China’s ancient capital city of Xi’an which will be able to pack in a crowd of 60,000. The proposals were released by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), with the company laying stress on legacy operations such as domestic and international football games and concerts, as well as the Asian Cup.

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

It is being reported that China will pull out all stops to demonstrate its hosting prowess through the 2023 Asian Cup and will use the event as a springboard as part of long-held ambitions to land the FIFA World Cup™.

Zhaocai 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.”

With an air of confidence, he asserted that China will be able to pull off an excellent tournament, which could boost football development in the country. All preparatory work is on track despite the COVID-19 clobber and the 2023 Asian Cup will leave an immense legacy for the country to stage higher-level international football events in the future.

Following the establishment of the local organizing committee, Zhaocai said the next phase of preparatory work is to help the host cities set up their own offices and build and streamline the communication mechanism to link the AFC with host cities and the committee.

“All 10 host cities are very enthusiastic for the Asian Cup and are very capable of hosting it,” Zhaocai asserted.

Zhaocai, who is also the Vice-President of the Chinese Football Association, also stated that the committee’s main focus is to develop football in China through the Asian soccer showpiece – “We will launch projects to connect the Asian Cup with youth football and grassroots football in China and, therefore, expand the influence of the sport in our country. Detailed match schedules, security and reception plans, as well as marketing projects are all moving forward as planned.”

“It will not only promote the development of Chinese football in all levels, but also stimulate the football industry and economy in the host cities,” the top sports official added, driving home the fact that the 2023 Asian Cup hold huge significance for China.

He further observed, “The tournament is also an opportunity for people to know more about China. The transportation between the host cities will mainly be carried by our developed high-speed railway system, so the players and fans can have a direct look at China’s development. These will lay a solid foundation for us to host any world-level football tournament.”

Brimming with confidence, Zhaocai stated, “After reviewing our preliminary report, AFC President Sheikh Salman told me that he has faith that the 2023 Asian Cup will go beyond people’s expectations. We have the confidence to host an excellent and safe Asian Cup for all.”

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