The world’s most extraordinary stadiums

November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Manchester United’s Champions League clash against Portuguese side Sporting Braga on Wednesday was at one of the world’s most extraordinary stadiums: the AXA Stadium, also known as the Estádio Municipal de Braga, more fondly (and more commonly to locals) known as The Quarry.

The extraordinary 30,000-seater was built as a host venue for Euro 2004, and was carved out of the side of a quarry on the edge of Mount Castro, overlooking the city. The almost-sheer rock faces at one end and along one side give the venue its unique look, one which is further enhanced by the Inca-inspired bridges which link the canopy covers over the seating.

To get around the fact that you can’t walk all the way around the outside, the stadium even has a vast, 5,000sq metre square underneath the pitch. The ground has been showered with awards, and its architect, Eduardo Souto de Moura, has been awarded the Pritzker prize (architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize).

But how does it compare to the world’s other most amazing sporting venues? Here’s our pick of some of the most amazing venues in the world.

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The Rock Stadium, Abu Dhabi

A Lebanese architecture firm has just won an award for its plans for a 40,000-seat stadium carved into the side of the Jebel Hafeet mountain range. “The original thought was to build a stand-alone stadium but, when I saw the site, I knew it would be perfect to carve into the mountain,” architect Marwan Zgheib said. The proposal has yet to be given the go-ahead, though no construction timeline has been announced.

World Games Stadium, Taiwan

The multi-purpose venue is unique in that its roof and sides are made almost entirely of solar panels which provide all the electricity needed inside. It’s also open at one end ,with the twisting spiral shape designed to look like a dragon.

The floating wooden football pitch in Panyee, Thailand

The football-mad islanders of Panyee had one problem back in the 1980s: they loved football but their tiny, rocky island had no space for a pitch. So they built a wooden pitch on water which floated next to their fishing boats – and put them on the road to becoming one of Thailand’s most successful football clubs.

Cowboys Stadium

The £700 million masterpiece – heralded as “the world’s coolest stadium” – has the world’s largest retractable roof, world’s two largest HD TV screens, and can accommodate up to 111,000 people.

Kantrida Stadium, Croatia

Often called the most scenic stadium in the world, the Kantrida in Rijeka may be small – it holds just 10,600 – but its charming position wedged between mountain and beach mean that is has been used for international friendly matches. And it’s been a lucky venue: Croatia have never lost there.

Allianz Arena, Munich

The famous multi-coloured lighting system changes the look of this stadium completely at the flick of a switch: it’s red when Bayern Munich play there, blue when fellow ground sharers 1860 Munich turn out, and white when used by the German national side.

Ski Dubai

Skiing in the desert? Sure, with real snow, chair lifts and even a stone-built Alpine-style lodge at the top of the mountain – and all in the year-round, 40-degree heat of the United Arab Emirates.

The Veltins Arena

The first venue in Europe to have a pitch that can be moved outside, Schalke’s ground is deeply unpopular with the world’s media for one simple reason: they are kicked out of the car park early after matches so that the turf can be moved back out to its normal spot, which is on the site of the press parking.

The Dripping Pan, Lewes

The famous East Sussex market town’s sporting venue has been in regular use since the 19th century and remains the home of Lewes FC, but despite all sorts of official attempts to rename it it’s never been able to shake its unusual moniker.

Isola d’Arbia, Siena

Plans for this incredible stadium – which is sunk into the ground to avoid blighting the stunning Tuscan countryside – were first announced early in 2011 by AC Siena, and following the side’s promotion to Serie A just over a year ago hopes were high that they could get the project going so as to finally move away from their existing 15,000-seater venue. With six points from their first 11 games of 2012-13, however, funding is proving elusive at the moment.

Stadio Hernando Siles, Bolivia

Not only is Bolivia’s national stadium hemmed in by higgledy-piggledly skyscrapers in La Paz, at 12,000ft above sea level it is the highest top-level sporting venue in the world.


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