China: Does the Middle Kingdom have the best stadiums in the world?

source:; author: Kuba Kowalski

China: Does the Middle Kingdom have the best stadiums in the world? With impressive architecture, state-of-the-art facilities and the ability to host huge sporting events, China's stadiums have become a symbol of the country's unwavering pursuit for perfection. Amidst the admiration and awe, the question arises: does China have the best stadiums in the world?


Breakthrough year 2022

In the previous year, as many as 13 stadiums exceeding 10,000 capacity were built in China. In addition to their functionality, these venues are characterised by an original architectural approach. All arenas were considered for the Stadium of the Year 2022 competition organised by our editorial team. The highest ranked was Chengdu Fenghuangshan Football Stadium - it finished 9th. Most of these stadiums were not simply buildings - as they were meant to remind people of tradition, geographical location or the nature that surrounds a particular arena.

Lanzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium is an example of such a facility. The main theme that guided the designers is the concept of "flowers dancing on the silk road". In line with this idea, each of the five main buildings of the complex presents motifs relating to five different flowers. Thus, alongside the 'rose' stadium, there is a 'tulip' sports hall, a 'lilac' swimming pool, a tennis hall inspired by the lotus flower and the 'orchid', an apartment building for athletes. The landscaping of the complex is based on motifs reminiscent of the ribbons known from Dunhuang Feitian's costumes.

How much did it cost to build so many stadiums? Chengdu Fenghuangshan Football Stadium alone, which seats 60 000 fans, cost more than $1 billion. It can be assumed that all 13 new venues in China cost around $7 billion. However, many of these stadiums are not typical football arenas. The trend for footballers leaving Europe for the Far East is over, and football is not the most popular sport in the Middle Kingdom.

Chengdu Fenghuangshan Football Stadium© 自在承德5U4 ( | Chengdu Fenghuangshan Football Stadium

Why do the Chinese need so many stadiums?

The third largest country in the world hosts plenty of sporting events. In addition to the Chinese National Games, which take place every four years, the Asian Games were planned for 2022 in Hangzhou. They were then postponed to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the stadiums, the locals made it in time - one of the venues that was built to host the competition is Xiaoshan Sports Center Stadium. Until 2013, the East Asian Games were also held every four years, with the most recent edition hosted by... China.

The country of almost 1.5 billion inhabitants also hosts championships of specific provinces. For example, on July 5 2022, the first competition was held at Wuyi New District Sports Centre Stadium. The Fujian Provincial Youth Athletics Championships were then held, which was also a qualifier for the 17th Fujian Provincial Games. Considering how many provinces and athletes there are in China, the number of stadiums being built there is a little less surprising.

Kuishan Sports Center Stadium © | Kuishan Sports Center Stadium

Chinese stadiums... all over the world

Interestingly, the Chinese are also building sports arenas outside their country. Such activities have been called stadium diplomacy - by definition, a way of conducting diplomacy that involves creating a positive image of China by financing and building sports facilities (primarily stadiums) in other parts of the world. In a study entitled 'China's Stadium Diplomacy in Africa', Mieszko Rajkiewicz writes: Stadium diplomacy has been present in the foreign policy of the People's Republic of China for more than 60 years. The first such outreach to another country was carried out in 1958 in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, and was an expression of a certain pragmatism in international politics.

How much influence is involved, however? The author goes on: Since 1958, China has carried out more than 140 projects under stadium diplomacy in more than 60 countries. This type of aid has not only been given to African countries, but also to Asian, South American, Central American or South Pacific countries. Indeed, the trend towards Chinese funding for stadium construction can be seen mainly in Africa, where China has been involved in the construction or reconstruction process in as many as 91 cases since 1969.

Stade de Port-Gentil© President Ali Bongo Ondimba | Stade de Port-Gentil constructed by China

Plans for the future

You can see all the Chinese stadium projects here. As many as nine concepts are currently being implemented, one of which is the idea for an arena in Guangzhou. Its capacity was to be as high as 100,000 seats. An initial price tag of 6.8 billion yuan was cited as the price of the stadium's construction, but a figure of 12 billion yuan was confirmed when construction began. It was also supposed to be the largest typical football venue in the world, but even if it were built soon, it would be surpassed by Spotify's Camp Nou, which will reach 105,000 capacity after reconstruction. However, nothing has been happening on the future site in recent months, and workers will not return to action until the end of this year at the earliest. Unfortunately, the stadium will not be as huge as expected - its capacity is expected to be around 55,000 fans.

Another noteworthy project is Yellow River Sports Center Stadium. The centrepiece of the concept is a football stadium with a capacity of 61 000 spectators. Two other large facilities will be built next to it - one will be a sports hall and the other will house an indoor swimming pool and fitness centre. The complex is to be built on the northern outskirts of the city, in Cuizhai District, on the left bank of the Yellow River. Implementation of the entire project is expected to cost 8.5 billion yuan.

It looks like, although 2023 will not be as abundant for China in terms of stadiums, the near future will bring more facilities to the Middle Kingdom. Are the best stadiums in the world located there? Will we see an event like the World Cup there in future years? Although the Chinese do not have enough class footballers to compete with other national teams for the highest goals, a World Cup in the Far East would be a unique and unprecedented event.

Yellow River Sports Center© HPPBIAD | Design: Yellow River Sports Center Stadium