Name: Stadio Olimpico
Address: Foro Italico, 00194 Rome, Italy
Last renovation: 1990
Home teams: AS Roma, Lazio, Italy
Internet: www.asroma.it, www.sslazio.it
Olimpico – roast pork and goosebumps
You immediately know when something is going on in the Stadio Olimpico from the smell of the porchetta, the roast pork offered by street sellers before events. Usually, of course, it is Calcio that sees the crowds make their way across the Tiber bridge in their thousands each week to watch Lazio or AS Roma, joint residents of the Olimpico.
The Giallorossi (yellow-reds) of AS Roma, admittedly, like to see themselves as being more than simply joint residents. As a long-standing club from the working-class district of Testaccio, they consider themselves the capital’s true representatives, regarding the light-blue Laziali as no more than little upstarts from the outskirts whom they have kindly allowed in at their discretion.
Regardless of this fan rivalry, both clubs have been allowed to use the venue since May 1953, when the rebuilt stadium was opened with a match between Italy and Hungary. “Stadio dei Centomila” was the name given to the rather pompous edifice at that time because of its 100,000 capacity. Indeed, the arena should have been even bigger, but lack of money eventually scuppered the original plans.
The stadium was constructed during the fascist era. The “Stadium of the Cypresses”, as it was initially known, was to be the centre of the Foro Mussolini sports complex, which was renamed Foro Italico after the Second World War.
However, the arena that was completed in 1932 could hardly have been called a stadium. The stands consisted of grass-covered slopes, which were replaced by paved terraces over a four-year period from 1933 onwards. The stadium held just over 90,000 people at that time. As well as hosting sporting events, it was also misused as a venue for fascist rallies. The next stage of construction began after Adolf Hitler announced his visit of 7 May 1938. However, the construction of a second tier was suspended when the war broke out.
The stadium was given its current name, Stadio Olimpico, during the 17th Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. The existing standing terraces were replaced for the opening and closing ceremonies and for athletics competitions, thus reducing the capacity to 65,000 spectators.
The stadium took on its current form for the 1990 FIFA World Cup™. It was completely renovated in 1989, which meant Lazio and Roma had to move to the smaller Stadio Flaminio for a season. The entire stadium but for the Tevere stand was demolished, rebuilt and completely roofed over, and the curves were brought nine metres inwards. With a capacity of more than 80,000, the Olimpico became Italy’s second-largest stadium after the Giuseppe Meazza in Milan.
“A magnificent construction. When the stadium is sold out and the Roma anthem rings out from the terraces, I always get goosebumps,” says Roma icon Francesco Totti. The Curva Sud is home to the Roma supporters and the Curva Nord to Lazio supporters.
Nevertheless, the arena has been anything but a lucky venue for the Giallorossi in finals. They lost the European Cup final on penalties to Liverpool in the stadium in 1984 — seven years after the “Reds” had won the trophy at the same venue against Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Italian national team has a better record. At the 1968 and 1980 European Championships and at the 1990 FIFA World Cup™, the Azzurri did not lose once in eight matches, even managing to claim the European Championship title against Yugoslavia in 1968, the one and only time in the tournament’s history that the final has gone to a replay.
However, it is the Germans who have the fondest memories of the Olimpico. They have been crowned both European (in 1980, 2-1 against Belgium) and world champions (1990, 1-0 against Argentina) at the stadium.
What is more, the Stadio Olimpico is a showcase not only for footballers but also music stars. Miles Davis, U2, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Tina Turner and David Bowie have all delivered fantastic concerts here. The stadium is now being spruced up and its capacity reduced to 72,698 for the next major event, which is due to take place in just under a year when the five-star arena hosts the 2009 UEFA Champions League final. What better occasion for residents AS Roma to improve their finals record?