On 27 July this Summer, athletes from 204 countries from around the world will head to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. With social media integrated into everyone’s lives, this years Olympics looks set to be the most recorded and most talked about Olympics since the great spectacle was reintroduced in Athens in 1896.
Today we would like to share with you 28 centerpiece Olympic stadiums. These stadiums, while used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, are also traditionally used for other athletic events as well. Due to this, they are the focal point of many large and historical events and usually have the largest capacity of all stadiums used in the Olympics.
From the stadium at Olympia to the newly built Olympic Stadium in London, we hope you enjoy our list of Summer Olympic stadiums.
Stadiums of the Olympiads
1. Stadium at Olympia – 5th century BC Olympia
The stadium at Olympia hosted many events from the ancient Olympic Games. In its day around 50,000 spectators would sit in mud seats on the grass slopes that looked upon the main field. A stone platform was placed in the Southern slope for judges. The shot put events for Athens 2004 were also held here.
2. Panathinaiko Stadium – 1896 Athens
Panathinaiko hosted the first modern Olympic games when they were reintroduced in 1896. It was also used for Archery in the 2004 Olympics (Athens) and as the finish line for the marathon.
The stadium looks as impressive as it did 116 years ago despite its age. Between the 5th and 4th century BC the stadium had wooden seating. It was improved in 140 AD to a capacity of 50,000 seats and was built entirely from white marble from the nearby Penteliko Mountain. To this day no other stadium has been built entirely from marble.
For the 1896 Olympics the capacity was increased again to 80,000 though today the capacity is 45,000. Panathinaiko has stood the test of time and remains one of the best looking stadiums in the world.
3. Vélodrome de Vincennes – 1900 Paris
Initially built as a velodrome (cycling track) in 1894, the Vélodrome de Vincennes was used as a the main stadium for the 1900 Olympics in France and had a capacity of 50,000. Most centerpiece stadiums host athletic events though for the 1900 Olympics athletics were held in the nearby Stade Yves-du-Manoir stadium that football club Racing Levallois 92 used. Whereas other events such as cycling, rugby and gymnastics were held at the Vélodrome.
The Olympic games were held in conjunction with the world fair that was held in Paris that year. Bizarrely, the organizers downplayed the Olympics so much that many competitors apparently didn’t even realize they were participating in the games. The games are remembered as being the first time women participated in events.
4. Francis Field – 1904 St. Louis
Like the 1900 Olympics, St. Louis had a world’s fair going on in the same year and just like in Paris 4 years before, the Olympics were overshadowed by the world’s fair.
The Francis Field stadium was built for the world’s fair and then used as the main stadium for the Olympics. It originally had a capacity of 19,000 but this was reduced in the 1980s to only 4,000. Along with the games in Paris in 1900, the 1904 Olympics are regarded as one of the worst events held under the Olympic banner.
5. White City Stadium – 1908 London
The 1908 games were originally supposed to go to Rome but London got them instead on short notice due to Rome not being prepared. One of the reasons London was easily ready was due to the ‘The Great Stadium’ in White City (London). It had been built for the Franco-British exhibition in 1908 and was perfect for such an event. With a capacity of 68,000 it was considered one of the most advanced stadiums of its time.
The stadium was host to a lot of historic events. Over its lifetime it was used for greyhound racing, speedway, rugby and one of the matches in the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Sadly, the stadium was demolished in 1985 and replaced by a series of buildings for the BBC.
Photo Credit: Telegraph
6. Stockholms Olympiastadion – 1912 Stockholm
The 1912 games were the first Olympics to have competitors from all 5 continents. The main stadium that was used for the event was the Olympiastadion. It was designed specifically for the 1912 games, and with a capacity of around 14,000, it is one of the smallest stadiums ever used in the Olympics.
The stadium would later host the equestrian events for the 1958 Olympics in Melbourne due to Australian quarantine rules. It has also hosted a lot of football and athletic events and concerts for The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen.
7. Olympisch Stadion (Antwerp) – 1920 Antwerp
Due to the 1916 Olympics being cancelled due to the ‘Great War’, the 1920 games were awarded to Antwerp in memory of victims lost there during the conflict. The Olympisch Stadion, sometimes referred to as Kielstadion or simply Kiel, was built specifically for the games. Back then it had a capacity of around 30,000 but over the years the stadium capacity was reduced. Today it can accommodate just under 13,000 people.
8. Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir – 1924 Paris
Having been used for athletic events for the games in 1900, Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir was an obvious choice as the centerpiece stadium for the 1924 event. It had a capacity of around 45,000 during the events but has since been reduced considerably. The now familiar closing ceremony was first introduced at these games.
9. Olympisch Stadion (Amsterdam) – 1928 Amsterdam
Another stadium that was designed specifically for the Olympics. It had a capacity of 31,600 when it was first built, though 9 years later a second ring of seating was added to the stadium, increasing the capacity of the ground to 64,000.
The Olympic flame was lit for the first time at the 1928 games.
10. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – 1932 & 1984 Los Angeles
Created in memory of those who died in World War I, the stadium was completed in 1923 with a capacity of 75,144. With the stadium being used as the main stadium for the Olympics in 1932, it was upgraded in 1930 to a capacity of 101,574. Despite the stadium being built in a remote area of California, over 100,000 people attended the opening ceremony.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was used again for the 1984 Olympics, making it the only stadium in the world to host the Olympics twice. It has also hosted the Super Bowl and World Series.
11. Olympiastadion (Berlin) – 1936 Berlin
Berlin was chosen as the host city of the Olympics for 1916 but due to the war the games were cancelled. They later got the games in 1936. For the 1916 games the Germans built the Deutsches Stadion, which had a capacity of 64,000. That stadium was demolished in 1934 and replaced with the Olympiastadion for the 1936 games. It had a capacity of a whopping 110,000 and a special stand was built for Adolf Hitler.
The games were the first to be broadcast on television. Those who watched would have witnessed Jesse Owens winning 4 gold medals with trainers made by Adi Dassler (creator of Adidas).
12. Empire Stadium – 1948 London
Due to World War II, the 1948 Olympics in London were the first for 12 years. Once again London had been called upon with short notice to host the games. Empire Stadium, which was completed in 1923, was used as the centerpiece stadium. Most will know the stadium by the name it was later adopted – Wembley Stadium. The stadium had a capacity of 82,000 during the games.
Wembley, as it was later called, is synonymous with football and is famous around the world due to the games that were held there. It hosted the 1966 FIFA World Cup final, 1996 European Cup Final and 5 European Cup finals. It also hosted countless events and concerts. It was demolished in 2003 to make way for the new Wembley stadium.
Photo credit: Daily Mail
13. Olympiastadion (Helsinki) – 1952 Helsinki
The Olympiastadion was finished in 1938 in time for the 1940 Olympic games. Due to war, the games did not proceed, though Helsinki were awarded the Olympics for 1952. During the games the stadium had room for over 70,000 people though today the capacity is around 40,000. It remains the largest stadium in Finland.
The 1952 games were the first to include Israel and the Soviet Union, who would go on to dominate gymnastics for many years.
14. Melbourne Cricket Ground – 1956 Melbourne
The Melbourne Cricket Ground, often shortened to the MCG, is one of the oldest modern stadiums in the world. It was originally built in 1954 with just a wooden stand and subsequently upgraded on numerous occasions over the following 100 years. By the time the ground was used for the 1956 games, 103,000 were in the stadium to watch the opening event. Today the capacity remains just over 100,000.
Closely beating Buenos Aires in the vote, Melbourne was the first Olympics held in the Southern hemisphere.
15. Stadio Olimpico – 1960 Rome
Opened in 1937, the Stadio Olimpico is the home stadium of football clubs Lazio and Roma. When the stadium was used for the 1960 Olympics it had a capacity of 65,000 though today it has room for over 7,000 more people.
The games are famous for a boxer named ‘Cassius Marcellus Clay’ winning gold in the light-heavyweight category.
16. National Olympic Stadium – 1964 Tokyo
Opened in 1958, the Olympic stadium was first used for the 1958 Asian Games and was later used for the 1964 Olympics. It has a capacity of 57,363. The stadium will be used for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and with Tokyo one of three cities in line for the 2020 Olympics, there is a possibility that the National Olympic Stadium will be the centerpiece of the Olympics again.
The 1964 event marked the first time the games had ever been held in Asia.
17. Estadio Olímpico Universitario – 1968 Mexico City
Opened in 1952 with a capacity of 70,000, the Estadio Olímpico Universitario was upgraded to accommodate 83,700 spectators for the 1968 games. Today the stadium has a capacity of 63,186 and is home to American football team Pumas Dorados de la UNAM and football team Pumas de la Universidad.
Mexico City proved to be a controversial choice for many athletes due to the city’s altitude of 2,300 metres above sea level. This proved to be a big problem for long distance runners and others in endurance events.
18. Olympiastadion München – 1972 Munich
The former home of football teams Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich, the Olympiastadion was initially built with a capacity of 80,000. In addition to the 1972 Olympic games, this beautiful stadium also hosted the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final, 1988 European Cup Final and European Cup Finals in 1979, 1993 and 1997.
Sadly, the 1972 games will always be remembered with the terrible acts of the terrorist group Black September in which two Israeli athletes, nine hostages, one policeman and five terrorists were killed.
19. Olympic Stadium / Stade Olympique – 1976 Montreal
Built as the main stadium for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, also known as ‘The Big O’, has one of the most unique designs in Olympic history. The design was one of the main causes for the stadium not being completed in time for the games. When the games opened it had a capacity of 58,500 though the planned roof was not added until several years later.
22 African countries boycotted the games due to New Zealand attending as their Rugby team had toured apartheid South Africa.
20. Luzhniki Stadium – 1980 Moscow
A grand stadium that was opened in the Summer of 1956. During the 1980 Olympic games, Luzhniki Stadium had a capacity of 103,000 though today the capacity has been reduced to 78,360. The stadium will be used for the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The USA boycotted the 1980 games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
21. Olympic Stadium (Seoul) – 1988 Seoul
Used for the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Olympics, the Olympic stadium initially had a capacity of 100,000. It has since been reduced to around 70,000.
The 1988 games are remembered for Ben Johnson setting a world record in the 100 metres, only for it to be revoked after he tested positively for steroids.
The Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys was built in 1927 for the international expo that was being held two years later. It was also used for Barcelona’s bid for the games in 1936 though they lost out to Berlin. The stadium was renovated for the 1992 Olympic games. Today it has a capacity of around 56,000 but during the games it had a capacity of just over 67,000. It has been used for a lot of large football events and concerts over the years.
23. Centennial Olympic Stadium – 1996 Atlanta
A great looking stadium that was built specifically or the 1996 games in Atlanta. For the games the ground had a capacity of 85,000.
The stadium was later renamed Turner Field and is home to the baseball team the Atlanta Braves. As a result of this its capacity was reduced over the years.This was clearly planned from the start as the stadium has a similar design to most baseball grounds. Today the stadium can hold 49,586 spectators.
24. Stadium Australia – 2000 Sydney
In 1956 Australia used a stadium which could accommodate 100,000 people in Melbourne. When the games were held in Sydney in 2000 they built a stadium which had a capacity of over 110,000. Stadium Australia is nothing short of impressive and is the largest stadium ever used in the Olympics.
25. Olympic Stadium (Athens) – 2004 Athens
In 2004 the Olympics finally returned to Athens. This time the newly renovated Olympic Stadium was used instead of Panathinaiko Stadium as the main venue. The Olympic Stadium had a capacity of 71,030 during the games though the official capacity for football games is 75,000 (it is a 5 star UEFA approved stadium).
The stadium is used as the home ground of all three football teams in Athens: AEK Athens, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos Piraeus.
26. Beijing National Stadium – 2008 Beijing
Known as the ‘Bird’s Nest’, Beijing National Stadium is a beautiful design that captured the world’s attention. It initially had a capacity of 91,000 but this was reduced to 80,000 after the 2008 Olympic games.
The games were the most watched to date with over seven hundred million people watching the events worldwide.
27. Olympic Stadium (London) – 2012 London
This Summer the world will be watching as London hosts the 2012 Olympic games. The newly built Olympic Stadium was built on an island and has a capacity of 80,000.
With many cities struggling to find a use for stadiums after the Olympics are finished, a lot of thought went into how the stadium would be used in 2013 and beyond. The bottom tier of the stadium accommodates 25,000 people whilst the top tier can hold 55,000 people. This top layer can be removed or modified easily later to reduce the capacity of the stadium if necessary.
Currently there are a lot of different parties bidding to use the stadium including the football teams West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur. As yet, no decision has been made as to who will own the stadium and how it will be used after this Summer’s games.
28. Estádio do Maracanã – 2016 Rio
The world famous Maracanã will host the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. The stadium was opened in 1950 in time for the 1950 FIFA World Cup. That years’ final between Brazil and Uruguay had an unbelievable 199,854 people inside the stadium watching.
The current capacity is 92,000. Rio is also hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup so is making some improvements for these events. The roof is being extended in order to cover all seats in the stadium and the seating arrangement inside is being changed (which may change the capacity of the stadium).
Let the Games Begin
That finishes up our side of the collection and history of Olympic stadiums, so now we turn the post over to you. Which out them all is your favorite Olympic stadium, and why? Use the comment section to share your thoughts.