Sports serve an important function in our civilization, exalting our stadiums as monuments to the competitive spirit that is a part of our human condition. Ubiquitous around the world, here the some of the most impressive sports venues fans have had the pleasure of watching a game in.
Panathenaic Stadium: Athens, Greece
The only stadium to be constructed entirely out of marble is also one of the oldest in the world, rebuilt from the original venue used for the Panathenian Games around 330 BC. The original structure was excavated and refurbished for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It was again used for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, and is still open to the public for morning jogs.
National Aquatics Center: Beijing, China
Created for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the National Aquatics Center is the site of Michael Phelps’ record-breaking performance winning eight gold medals. The building known as “The Water Cube” spawned a number of imitations across China.
Wimbledon Centre Court: London, United Kingdom
Centre Court is home to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, but more importantly the site of the Wimbledon Championship. Originally opened in 1922, the venue is steeped in history and tradition. Players were once even required to bow for the royal box, though the custom is dying as Wimbledon modernizes, complete with a newly retractable roof.
Camp Nou: Barcelona, Spain
FC Barcelona’s home field is one of the biggest stadiums in Europe. While it doesn’t have the glitz of more modern stadiums, it makes up for it with some of the most passionate fans you will ever see. Fans and even managers have been known to get rowdy in this venue.
Rungrado May Day Stadium: Pyongyang, North Korea
Sports fans might be surprised to learn the world’s biggest stadium is actually in North Korea, with a seating capacity of 150,000. It is used for a soccer matches and a few athletic events, but the venue is most famous as the site of North Korea’s Arirang performances; synchronized dances with more than 100,000 participants, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest of its kind.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Indianapolis, Ind.
While Pyongyang has the biggest stadium, Indianapolis has by far the biggest sports venue in the world. There is permanent seating for more than 257,000, and with infield seating crowds have grown to as high as 400,000 for the Indy 500. The IMS has also hosted the Brickyard 400, the Red Bull Motorcycle Grand Prix and the U.S. Fomula 1 Grand Prix, making this heaven for motor sports fans.
Estadio Azteca: Mexico City, Mexico
While it’s certainly imposing, Estadio Azteca’s fame comes from its role in hosting some of the most iconic soccer moments of all time. Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” and “Goal of the Century,” the world’s two most famous goals, happened here during the 1986 FIFA quarter-final. The stadium also hosted the 1970 “Game of the Century,” when Italy defeated West Germany by 4-3 in extra time.
Soccer City: Johannesburg, South Africa
Africa’s largest stadium was originally known as FNB Stadium sitting on the site of a former gold mine, Johannesburg’s historical source of wealth. The venue was refurbished, inspired by African pottery, and hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
La Bombonera: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Officially known as Estadio Alberto J. Armando, fans call this venue the Chocolate Box for its flat stands on one side of the field, and the three steep stands lining the rest of the stadium. It is the home field of the Boca Juniors, the former team of Diego Maradona, who has his own executive box at the stadium.
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