China has begun construction on the world’s largest stadium, signaling hope that crowds will gather again.

China COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic

As China slowly sends residents back to work, Chinese Football Association team Guanzhou Evergrande kicked off a $1.7 billion project to construct the largest soccer stadium on the planet, which is expected to be completed by 2022, showing the government’s optimism for the resumption of mass gatherings.

On Thursday Chinese Football Association’s Chinese Super League team Guangzhou Evergrande began its $1.7 billion construction of a lotus-shaped ‘Flower City,’ stadium, which will be the largest football arena in the world with 100,000 seats, 16 VVIP private suits, 152 VIP suites, FIFA area and more, per ESPN.

The Chinese Super League was originally scheduled to begin its season on February 22, but due to the pandemic the league—and FIFA—are currently on pause with no date set for resumption.

The mega stadium is set to be completed in 2022 in order to serve as the turf of the 2023 Asian Cup, a sign that the league—and China—presume that mass gatherings like sporting events will resume without social distancing restrictions by then.

Guangzhou Evergrande is owned by Evergrande, the largest real estate company in China with $65 billion in 2019 revenue.

CRITICAL QUOTE

“Evergrande Stadium will become a new world-class landmark comparable to the Sydney Opera House and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and an important symbol of Chinese football to the world,” said Xia Haijun, president of Evergrande.

KEY BACKGROUND

Wuhan, China’s coronavirus epicenter, allowed residents to leave their homes on March 23 after a two-month lockdown as the country begins to resume public life—with residents going to the mall, getting haircuts and heading back to work, per NBC. Though Guangzhou had been relatively unaffected by the initial COVID-19 outbreak, fears of a “second wave” of coronavirus from foreign visitors has plagued the city with mandatory 14-day quarantine for African nationals, showing the fear that still lingers with the threat of coronavirus.

Currently, team Guangzhou Evergrande calls 58,500-seat Tianhe Stadium home, which attracted an average of 46,000 fans per game in 2019, per ESPN.

TANGENT

When China Super League team Wuhan Zall’s players left their hometown for spring training in Spain in January, they had no intention of remaining abroad for 104 days, per BBC. Yet, when cases spiked in Wuhan, the team decided to stick it out in their Malaga training camp while Wuhan was under strict lockdown with no travel in or out, ultimately stranding the soccer team abroad for months. Players returned to Shenzen on March 13, underwent three weeks of quarantine, and reunited with their families and fans on April 18 after 104 days abroad.

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