Smart stadiums

Could technology in use at the World Cup transform Latin America’s stadiums?

Qatar is currently the epicentre of world sports as it hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Middle Eastern country has faced criticism over its human rights record and authoritarian rule, but it has built from scratch seven of its eight World Cup venues. The stadiums themselves are crammed with the latest innovations including advanced cooling technologies, demountable construction designs, water and energy efficiency technologies and even a connected match ball. The strap-line is the most sustainable and most connected tournament in history.

 

In Brazil, the massive stadium infrastructure installed when they hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup left little benefit for the local population, except for some success stories, like the São Paulo Arena. Built in the low-income Itaquera neighbourhood, the stadium is currently being used by Corinthians, the club with the largest supporter base in the city, which in 2020 sealed a USD 55.6 million 20-year sponsorship deal with Neo Química, a local leading pharmaceutical company. In addition, the stadium contributed to the development of East São Paulo with an estimated economic impact of USD 5.8 billion in jobs, events, and commercial activities. 

 

“Modern stadiums across the world have two key demands: sustainability and connectivity,” explained a Brazilian architect, “we are working more and more with new low-carbon materials, the latest power and water systems, and the most advanced 5G infrastructure.”

“Modern stadiums across the world have two key demands: sustainability and connectivity.”

Architect, Brazil

Clube Atlético Mineiro’s Arena MRV, currently under construction, is set to be one of Brazil’s most technologically advanced stadiums, including facial recognition, Bluetooth, biometrics and QR systems to ease access to the stadium and to facilitate the management of large events and attractions through a centralised digital information system. In Argentina, the Dr. Jorge Luis Hirschi Stadium in La Plata was reformed in collaboration with the climate business team of the International Finance Corporation, a sister organisation of the World Bank and a USD 5 million renewable energy loan from Banco Itaú Argentina. The new stadium was built using a resource-efficiency-first principle focusing on reducing energy and water consumption. 

“Brazil has the most advanced stadiums, followed by Mexico and Argentina but only a few stadiums have Wi-Fi connection, not even to support the press, and 5G still feels like a dream.”

Football correspondent, ESPN, Brazil

The next step for football stadiums will be the implementation of 5G connectivity. This will likely extend their relationship of fans with the sport experience with direct access to more data, heatmaps, statistics, personalised mobile features, new advertising media formats, and new visual and acoustic emotions. A football correspondent with ESPN in Brazil explained that the connectivity in stadiums across Latin America left a lot to be desired, “South American stadiums, on average, are far behind Europe in terms of connectivity. Brazil has the most advanced stadiums, followed by Mexico and Argentina but only a few stadiums have a Wi-Fi connection, not event to support the press, and 5G still feels like a dream. Even regular cell phone networks are immediately saturated on match days and 4K transmission just isn’t possible in most stadiums across the region.”

 

With the UK and Europe starting to test these features, it may only be a matter of time before torcedores and hinchas enjoy these new experiences at their own home stadiums. 

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