The City Administration of Addis Abeba will inaugurate the renovation of Abebe Bikila Memorial Stadium in early December. Costing 105.5 million Br, the renovation took two years to complete.
With 96pc of its maintenance and renovations finalised, installation of flood lights and cladding remain to be completed. The latter are expected to be competed in 10 days, while the floodlights are being imported and are expected to be installed in two weeks.
The key maintenance work done to the Stadium includes importing and assembling 16,000 spectator seats, installing sheds, building a running track and maintaining the football field.
"The Stadium will give an additional beauty to the capital," said Fekadu Alemu, sports project coordinator of the Addis Abeba City Construction Bureau.
The contractor for the project is the Chinese construction company Zhongmie Engineering Group, which was awarded the project by the Addis Abeba Youth & Sports Bureau in March 2017. The firm won the international bid announced in August 2016 by the Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service after making the lowest bid to renovate the multi-purpose stadium.
Zhongmie has previously worked on the construction of the Afar Highroad Project and subcontracted grouting work on the Megach Dam project.
The design of the Stadium was first awarded to Ultimate Consulting, a local consultancy, but due to disagreements with the City Administration over the design proposal, its contract was terminated in February 2018. The Bureau took over design and consultancy services after that.
The renovation was initially planned to be completed at the end of 2018. Design changes and the foreign currency shortage were the major reasons for the delay, according to Fikadu.
The project created 2,000 employment opportunities. Once operational, the Stadium will rent out 63 commercial spaces located nearby to youth interested in working in the recreational industry.
"The stadium is a great asset for the residents of the capital and the fans of the two big clubs, Ethiopian Coffee and St. George," said Yonas Aregay, head of the Addis Abeba Sports Commission.
Abebe Bikila Stadium was first opened in 2002 and had been hosting Ethiopian Premier League matches as well as having a three-in-one pitch, which can be used for handball, basketball and volleyball, a football field and an athletics track.
After the inauguration of the renovation, Addis Abeba will have two operating stadiums, including Yidnekachew Tessema Stadium, which was built by the Italians in 1940 and hosted three Africa Cup of Nations matches.
Additionally, the city is also seeing the construction of five brand new stadiums in the districts of Yeka, Nifas Silk Lafto, Bole, Gulele and Aqaqi Qality. While four of these were estimated to cost 300 million Br, the Aqaqi Qality stadium, which has been dragging on since 2013, was expected to cost 1.6 billion Br.
"We have a plan to make Addis Abeba a centre of sporting events," said Yonas.
Genene Mekuria, veteran sports journalist and CAF's Golden Order of Merit Award winner, suggests that for a country that hosts different international conferences including sports forums, the number of sports centres is not enough.
"There would be even better incentives to improve the infrastructure though only if there was a perceptible improvement in the quality of the local soccer scene," said Genene.