Some of the finest stadiums in the world will host the 2012 Olympic football tournament with the finale being at the rebuilt Wembley
WEMBLEY STADIUM may recently have become a bit of a national joke but there is no doubt that by the time it stages the men and women’s semi-finals and finals of the football tournament in the 2012 Olympics it will be one of the magnificent cathedrals in sport.
The new 90,000 capacity Stadium will be the most advanced sports stadium in the world. The new ground is being built on the site of the world-famous ground that hosted the 1948 Olympic Games and the 1966 World Cup Final.
Wembley’s brilliant future is built upon a glorious past with many fans having their own treasured Wembley memory. At the end of the World War One in 1918, the Government began planning a British Empire Exhibition with a stadium as a National Sports Ground as its centrepiece. The Wembley Park Leisure Ground, which by then had evolved into an 18-hole golf course, was selected as the ideal site. The Exhibition area covered 219 acres and the area on which Watkin’s Folly had stood was chosen as the site for the new stadium.
The Empire Stadium, as it was originally known, was built by architects Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayerton, and the engineer Sir Owen Williams. It took just 300 days to complete at a cost of £750,000, and was built from 25,000 tons of ferro concrete, 1000 tons of steel, and over half a million rivets.
The Empire Exhibition was a remarkable event, with fountains, lakes, gardens and many pavilions, each representing the architectural style of the countries exhibiting. It was opened by King George V on April 23, 1924, and was an immediate success. It even re-opened between May and October the following year which lifted the final attendance to 27,102,498. There were 4,500,000 admissions to the Empire Stadium alone.
The first event in the old stadium was the famous white horse cup final of 1923. Over the years, the stadium was regularly updated and improved. Floodlights were added in 1955. Whilst the electric scoreboard and the all encircling roof, made from aluminium and translucent glass, were added in 1963. Those changes aside, the structure of the stadium remained essentially the same as it was in 1924 with the stadium’s distinctive Twin Towers as its trademark. Also well known were the 39 steps needed to be climbed to reach the Royal box and collect a trophy (and winners'/losers' medals).
But the old stadium struggled to meet the developing needs of sports fans when it was finally closed in 2000. The new design is for an all-seated capacity of 90,000 protected from the elements by a sliding roof. The stadium’s signature feature will be a circular section lattice arch of seven metre internal diameter with a 315 metre span, erected some 22° off true, and rising to 133 metres tall. According to “Guinness World Records 2006”, the archway is the world’s longest unsupported roof structure. It features an aircraft warning light at the top, the only stadium in the world to have one.
The stadium will also be linked with Wembley Park Station on the London Underground via Olympic Way, and Wembley Central via the White Horse Bridge. A “platform system” has also been designed to convert the stadium for athletics use; however installation of the platform decreases the stadium's capacity to approximately 60,000. When completed, the building will have 2,000 toilets, more than any other building in the world.
At first a string of financial and political difficulties delayed the work for over two years. The new stadium is currently under construction, with the total cost of the project (including local transport infrastructure redevelopment and the cost of financing) estimated in 2003 to be £757 million. It was scheduled to open on May 13 2006 , with the first game being that year's FA Cup Final. However, worries were expressed as to whether the stadium would actually be completed on time On March 20 2006, part of the roof of the new development collapsed forcing 3,000 workers to evacuate the stadium and raising further doubts over the completion date which was already behind schedule, finally help force officials to admit that the stadium would not be ready until 2007. All competitions and concerts planned were to be moved to other suitable locations.
The earlier matches in the football will be played around the country at the following venues:
HAMPDEN PARK (Glasgow): HAMPDEN PARK in Glasgow, Scotland is home to Queen's Park F.C. and the Scottish national football team. Hampden is one of the homes of football and celebrated its centenary on October 31, 2003. The stadium also houses the offices of the Scottish Football Association. Hampden Park was the largest stadium in the world until 1950, when the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro was completed. After the release of the Taylor Report in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, among other football tragedies, Hampden Park was converted to an all-seater. The need to improve safety as well as protect crowds from the Scottish weather led to its most recent renovation in the late 1990s; and the stadium was re-opened on the May 14, 1999. The current capacity is about 52,500.
MILLENNIUM STADUM (Cardiff): THE £126-million Millennium Stadium is the national stadium of Wales, used primarily for rugby union and football. It was the largest football ground in the United Kingdom with a capacity of 74,500, but relinquished this distinction when Old Trafford completed its extension. The stadium was built in 1999 on the site of the old National Stadium, in Cardiff Arms Park. It was initially built for the 1999 Rugby Union World Cup, for which Wales was the main host. The stadium features a retractable roof (only the second stadium in Europe, and the biggest in the world). The pitch itself is laid on top of some 7,400 pallets which can be moved so the stadium can be used for concerts, exhibitions and other events. As well as international rugby union, the Millennium Stadium has hosted a variety of sports, including all the FA Cup finals since 2001, rugby league (Including Challenge Cup finals and Welsh Rugby League internationals) speedway and indoor cricket. The stadium has also on occasion been used as a venue for shooting film and television productions. Dalek, an episode of the 2005 series of the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, was shot primarily on location at the stadium, using its underground areas to stand in for an underground base in Utah, United States in the year 2012.
OLD TRAFFORD (Manchester): GIVEN the nickname "The Theatre of Dreams" by Sir Bobby Charlton, Old Trafford is the home of Manchester United. Located in the borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, it has been United’s home since 1910. The stadium was bombed in 1941, forcing the club to temporarily share Manchester City's home ground, Maine Road, until the rebuilding of Old Trafford was completed in 1949. Until the new Wembley Stadium is completed Old Trafford will have the largest ground capacity of any English football stadium, currently holding just over 73,000 spectators. Ongoing work on two corner stands will result in a capacity of 76,000 by the 2006-2007 season. It has frequently hosted FA Cup semi-final matches and occasionally hosted England international fixtures whilst Wembley was under reconstruction. It also hosted 1966 World Cup matches, Euro '96 matches and the Champions League final in 2003.
ST JAMES’ PARK (Newcastle): ST JAMES’ PARK is a 52,387 capacity all-seater. It was first used by Newcastle United in 1891 after the unification of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End, although football had been played there since 1880. The ground received only modest expansion until the early 1990s when businessman Sir John Hall invested heavily in the club. By 1995 the stadium had reached a capacity of 36,000 seats and the ground was further expanded at the cost of £42 million. Although the stadium appears severely lop-sided when viewed from the outside, the bottom tier of the four stands does create an integral rectangular bowl around the stadium, with the newer stands rising above this on three sides. The scope for further expansion is limited by a road facing the Gallowgate end and listed buildings behind the East Stand. The club also purchased the land around and above the St. James’ Metro station, with the eventual aim of building hotel and conference facilities. In 2005, a new bar was built beneath the upper tier of the Gallowgate end, named "Shearer's'" after Newcastle legend Alan Shearer.
VILLA PARK (Birmingham): OPENED in 1897, the year Aston Villa won the League and FA Cup double, it was officially called the Aston Lower Grounds, on the site of a Victorian amusement park in the former grounds of a Jacobean stately home, Aston Hall. Once the site of a fishpond and kitchen garden belonging to Sir Thomas Holte, the owner of Aston Hall. This is where the name of the legendary Holte End came from. The pitch was initially surrounded by a 24 foot wide concrete cycle track and a cinder running track. Many athletics and cycle events were staged here prior to the First World War. The running track was removed in 1922 when work started on the Trinity Road Stand and the ground was squared off. The Trinity Road Stand was demolished in 2001 and replaced by a larger modern stand, establishing the capacity at 43,000. The ground is the only in England to have hosted an England international in three different centuries, the first of which was in 1899 and the most recent in 2005. Villa Park hosted three World Cup matches during the 1966 World Cup and four during Euro '96 and the last ever final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup when Lazio beat Real Mallorca 2-1 in 1999.