The world’s most impressive sports stadiums
Couch potato-ing, sideline supporting and Grand Final pool partying … they’re all noble attempts at getting amongst it, but nothing quite beats the Mexican waving, warm beer guzzling, laryngitis-inducing atmosphere of watching a game in a gigantic stadium. And worldwide, there are certainly a few crackers worth visiting.
USA & Canada
Home to the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Texas has an 80,000 seat capacity and is the largest domed stadium with the largest column-free interior and the largest operable glass doors in the world. But wait, there’s more. It’s also got one of the world’s largest jumbotrons (stadium TV), which cost around $40 million and contains 30 million light bulbs and over 2,300 square metres of video displays. That’s a lot of larges!
One of the more iconic US sporting venues can be found in downtown New York, home of the Rangers ice-hockey team, the Knicks basketball team and the singer Billy Joel, who has a residency there. It’s Madison Square Garden and it’s the stuff of legends, hosting the first ever bout between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, concerts by the likes of Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash and more recently, the NBA (basketball) and Stanley Cup (hockey) finals.
It’s all about the shape, and in the case of the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Canada, this refers to the architecture, which is a yehah! celebration of the country’s western heritage. Concretely fashioned as an inverse hyperbolic paraboloid (which basically means its weight can be supported without internal pylons that would block the action), it’s also the perfect venue from which to view the city’s world famous annual rodeo.
Quirkily adaptable, the Sapporo Dome in Japan is home to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (believe it or not, a baseball team) and the Consadole Sapporo (a football team) and is cleverly capable of switching between entirely different surfaces depending on the sport being played. Swapping artificial turf for baseball and grass pitch for football, it also holds up to 42,000 cray cray fans.
The site of Michael Phelps’s extraordinary eight Olympic gold medals in 2008, the National Aquatics Center in Beijing was fittingly designed by a Sydney based architectural firm. The Water Cube’s squarish form was created in order to evoke a yin and yang type feel (as opposed to the neighbouring, circular National Stadium), it’s coloured blue to reflect the sunlight and is said to “shine like a pearl in water”.
Beijing National Stadium holds well over 80,000 fans and is the brainchild of a Swiss firm, with the design originating from the study of Chinese ceramics. Its ‘web of twisting steel’ serves to hide the supports of its retractable roof, thus giving it the appearance of a bird’s nest. Unfortunately, it’s mostly unused due to it being a little on the large side (the city’s football club only has around 10,000 regular fans), so a hotel and shopping mall are planned to pimp it up a little.
Singapore’s The Float holds the enchanting title of the world’s largest floating stage. Made entirely of steel, it’s 83 metres wide and 120 metres in length and can bear up to 1070 tonnes, which is roughly equivalent to the total weight of around 9000 people, a few hundred tonnes of stage props and oh, three 30-tonne military vehicles, just in case you were needing a relevant weight calculation.
Taiwan’s National Stadium in the municipality of Kaohsiung, not only looks evocative (it’s semi-spiral shape is decidedly dragon-like), it also flies the greenie flag, as it’s the first stadium in the world to provide power using solar energy technology. Thousands of external panels generate almost 100% of the power needed for its operation, which keeps around 55,000 peeps serviced during local footy games.
The Germans love their uber-stadiums, with Allianz Arena in Munich holding around 72,000 people and having the delightfully chameleon capacity to change its external colour depending on what team is playing at the time. And how, you may ask? It’s all due to its unique exterior of inflated ETFE plastic panels, which is why it’s also nicknamed ‘Schlauchboot’ (inflatable boat).
Olympiastadion in Berlin was the scene of the 1936 Olympics and was packed with around 110,000 spectators when Jesse Owens won four track and field gold medals and was the most successful athlete at the games. It was also one of the few buildings that survived World War II and is currently the home of the Hertha BSC Football Club.
With a capacity of 45,000, Panathenaic Stadium in Athens is where the modern Olympics was born, with its marbled U-shaped structure modelled on the one that was built for the 330 BC Panathenian Games. Unearthed after excavations in the 1830’s, it was rebuilt in time for the 1896 Games and was the scene of the first Olympic medal win in more than 1500 years (won by American, James Connolly in the triple jump).
Stockholm houses the Ericsson Globe, the largest hemispherical building in the world, with an inner height of 85 metres and a diameter of 110 metres. Designed to resemble the sun in the Sweden Solar System (the world’s largest scale model of the solar system), it hosted a cheeky Eurovision contest back in 2000 and is primarily used for ice hockey.
With a capacity of 94,700, Soccer City in Johannesburg is the largest stadium on the African continent and is located on the site of an old gold mine, which is (ironically) the historical source of the country’s wealth. Its major facelift, undertaken in preparation for the 2010 World Cup, resulted in a venue inspired by traditional African pottery, hence its nickname, Calabash.
The second largest stadium in Europe, London’s Wembley Stadium holds around 90,000 punters and features a 134 metre-high arch and a partially retractable roof (handy given the UK’s weather). With a circumference of one kilometre, it’s also fairly voluminous, being able to hold the equivalent of 25,000 double-decker buses inside. It will host both the semis and the final of the UEFA Euro in 2020.
Sixth largest in the world, the Azteca Stadium in Mexico holds around 105,000 fans and has hosted two FIFA World Cup finals. It’s also the site of two of the sport’s most talked about events (both which occurred during the 1986 game against England) – Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ and the ‘Goal of the Century’, both of which enabled the country to snavel the World Cup.
Although when empty it’s cred rating may be a little on the lame side, fill it with people and Kolkata’s Eden Gardens is one of the most intimidating stadiums in the world. Cricketers from all walks of life dream of playing here (it’s been described as the cricket world’s answer to the Colosseum) and it is currently host to a variety of test matches, one-day internationals and Twenty20 games.
Known worldwide as simply ‘The G’, there’s nothing simplistic about Melbourne’s MCG, the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere, ‘the spiritual home of the AFL’ and an important element in the development of international cricket.
Home of the first ‘One Dayer’ between Australia and England in 1877, it’s a formidable spectacle, especially when 100,000 screaming fans pack its hallowed stands for events like the Boxing Day Test and the AFL Grand Final. Ausssie Aussie Ausssie. Oi Oi Oi!