Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica

The Chinese are expanding their influence in developing countries by offering them investments in infrastructure in return for access to their raw materials. These infrastructure projects regularly involve building new stadiums.

From Frank Dikk√∂ter’s review on a book about China’s dealings in the developing world:

From the copper mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the natural gas holdings of Turkmenistan, a giant octopus extends its tentacles, trading finished products for natural resources. In South America 90 per cent of exports to China are unprocessed or barely processed natural resources. The proportion is about the same for Africa. China not only extracts, it also constructs. In what the authors call ‘stadium diplomacy’, dozens of ‘friendship stadiums’ are presented as gifts to countries around the world. Critics characterise them as Trojan horses used to conquer local markets.

Various stadiums have been built this way in Africa, but also, for example, Costa Rica’s new national stadium. The designs seem to have a lot of similarities. Check for example Mozambique‘s and Togo‘s new national stadiums.

While beneficial for local sports fans, the projects offer little benefits for workers:

‘They fed us rotten rice. We were working for fourteen hours or more each day. They didn’t pay us the salary stipulated in our contracts. We were slaves. That’s what our boss told us and that’s how we felt.’ These are the words of Chinese labourers recruited in Gabon to work for a Chinese construction company. Local workers generally fare no better. While the sign over the entrance of the Maputo National Stadium proclaims that ‘friendship between China and Mozambique will prevail like Heaven and Earth’, the Chinese companies pay their local employees too little to meet even their basic needs.