The Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium in Ebimpé was a product of the existing Chinese-African partnerships and was inaugurated on October 3, 2020.
It is a multi-purpose venue that can host major sports like football, rugby and athletic events and it is one of the six stadiums selected to host some AFCON 2024 Fixtures to be hosted by Ivory Coast in 2024.
Unfortunately, since its opening, this edifice has not seen the best of usage and its poor pitch despite the beautiful layout, especially from the exterior, will make everyone believe that it was in good shape but that was far from it.
This year's competition is officially named AFCON 2023 since it was initially scheduled to take place last year but was postponed until January-February 2024.
After it recently hosted a 2026 World Cup qualifying game in which Ivory Coast put nine goals past visiting Seychelles in November, athletes remain sceptical about the quality of the pitch, especially if it gets to rain at some point during the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations starting on January 13.
Built on an area of 20 hectares in the north of Abidjan with a possible extension of an Olympic village over 287 hectares in the new peripheral city and near the commune of Anyama, the Alassane Ouattara Stadium Anyama in Ebimpé, has an investment cost of approximately 143 billion CFA francs (€218,002,095).
This was financed by the State of Côte d'Ivoire and China, respectively to the tune of approximately 80 billion CFA francs (€121,959,214) and 63 billion CFA francs (€96,042,881).
It has a capacity of 60,012 seats and includes five levels with a height of 51.4 m. It is totally covered and built on a total area of 61,250 square meters. It also includes two presidential lounges and an anti-doping control room.
The facility, which has recently seen a facelift, will host matches in Group A during AFCON 2024 — the group that houses the hosts, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. The opening match of the competition and the final match will be played at this venue.
State of the pitch
The dimensions of its lawn are 105m long and 68m wide. This lawn which has generated lots of reactions considering its true state, has recently exposed certain problems with this beautiful structure.
During a friendly game between Ivory Coast and Mail in September, the game was suspended at halftime because of a heavy downpour. The drainage system was obviously faulty and the flooded pitch meant that the game couldn't continue.
The downpour also found its way into the VIP and VVIP lounges, as well as the main hall of the stadium. It was a truly humiliating and unacceptable scene, just a few months before Africa's biggest football competition.
All these things happened right after the CAF's general secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, praised the newly refurbished or built Ivorian stadiums for the showpiece, stating that they were “modern stadiums that can host World Cup matches.”
Shocked at the turn of things, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara (after whom the stadium is named) ordered a budgetary increase of 20 billion CFA francs (€30,489,803) for its urgent renovation. This brings the total construction cost to 163 billion FCFA (€248,491,898) and has made the Ivorians ironically describe it as “the most expensive stadium in the world.”
Some heads did roll after the bizarre scene, including Prime Minister Patrick Achi and Minister of Sports Paulin-Claude Danho, the general director of the National Sports Office (the body responsible for the maintenance of sports infrastructure), and the finance director.
Since then, there has been some calmness as a new company was hired to fix a hybrid pitch and repair work was done on the VIP boxes and other parts that had failed. The stadium was eventually approved.
The road network around Alassane Ouattara Stadium
There had been a heavy downpour a day before Ivory Coast hosted the Seychelles in November for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. It was a good test following the ongoing repair work at that stadium. Fortunately, the drainage system worked well and the pitch looked great on match day.
The Elephants eventually crushed the Seychelles 9-0, and they went on to boost their chances of making it to the World Cup by winning their second game away from home against Gambia 2-0 to stay top of the group. Now, the beliefs and hopes of the hosts are making the fans begin to dream of a third title on home soil; however, there are still concerns about the road network leading to the stadium.
Late in the afternoon on December 7, flash flooding due to heavy rains blocked the main Yopougon-Ndotré route (the district where the stadium is located), causing major traffic jams.
The video of this rain went viral on social networks and created legitimate concerns and questions among the locals. Can the work on the stadium and the roads leading to this building be completely finished before January 13, 2024 (the date of the opening match)? The question remains, and the coming days will give us more context.
How to get to the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Ebimpé
The average temperature in January–February in the city of Abidjan, where this stadium is located, is 29 degrees with a dry climate. Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire, has about 6 million inhabitants.
Traveling in Abidjan is very easy and inexpensive. In addition to the national company buses (SOTRA) which serve the entire city, there are very convenient, comfortable and easily accessible VTCs.
Also, there are the traditional ‘Gbaka' (popular mini-buses), which serve the communities of Yopougon and Abobo (north of Abidjan), Adjamé (in the north center of Abidjan), and the community of Bingerville (in the east of Abidjan).
There are also the multiple metered taxis, as they are called in the Ivorian economic capital. For instance, a trip from the plateau (administrative district) to Yopougon (working-class district) can cost an average of 3000 CFA francs.
During the AFCON tournament, there are plans to make pick-up buses available in the Abidjan District to facilitate easy access to the stadium for all supporters. Hopefully, this whole system works well when the competition starts.
On the flip side, if you pass through Abidjan, do not hesitate to taste the favourite dishes of the Ivorians, which are garba (cassava semolina accompanied by fried fish, onion, chopped chili, and fresh tomato), alloco (fried banana plantains), and the seed sauce accompanied by banana foutou or rice.
Alassane Ouattara stadium schedule for AFCON 2024
January 13, 9pm: Ivory Coast vs Guinea-Bissau (Group A)
January 14, 3pm: Nigeria vs Equatorial Guinea (Group A)
January 18, 3pm: Equatorial Guinea vs Guinea-Bissau (Group A)
January 18, 6pm: Ivory Coast vs Nigeria (Group A)
January 22, 6pm: Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast (Group A)
January 22, 9pm: Mozambique vs Ghana (Group B)
January 28, 6pm: 1st group A against 3rd C/D or E (8th final)
February 2, 6pm: Quarter-final 1
February 7, 6pm: Semi-final 1
February 11, 9 pm: Final