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Big stadium, small city: Russia wrestles with World Cup legacy

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20:30 13-07-2018
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 Australian fan Joshua Hesse looked puzzled when told which team would inherit the brand new World Cup stadium in Russia’s Saransk where he was about to watch Tunisia play Panama, Euronews reports.

That’s because few people outside Russia have heard of local club FC Mordovia Saransk.

Its average attendance last season was 3,700. The stadium’s capacity? Around 44,000.

Filling those extra seats is the challenge Russia faces in ensuring the World Cup it has hosted over the past month leaves a robust legacy rather than a trail of white elephants.

It is a challenge other countries that hosted major sporting events have faced, and in many cases, flunked. The rowing centre for the 2004 Athens Olympics is deserted and decaying; Brazil’s iconic Maracana stadium which hosted the 2016 Olympic soccer competition was looted afterwards, and the seats ripped out.

The question of sporting legacy will be on the agenda again in the run-up to the next World Cup, in Qatar. It will build at least eight air-conditioned stadiums, more than its population of 2.3 million can regularly use, although it says it plans to dismantle some of them for use elsewhere.

Russia’s case is less stark. There is established demand for most of the new facilities built for the tournament.