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Rome Olympic Stadium

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Action: Roma and Lazio + internationals
Location: in north west Rome close to the River Tiber
Opened: 17 May 1953
Accommodation: 82,307 all-seated
Information: Originally conceived by Mussolini as a 100,000 capacity modern Colosseum, a more modest stadium was built to stage the 1960 Olympics. It was then remodelled for the 1990 World Cup and an elliptical, translucent roof added. Like all Italian venues, the Olympic Stadium has always been publicly owned. But the surrounding, grandiose neo-classical sports complex is outdated and underused and so the two tenant clubs (and deadly rivals) Roma and Lazio may combine to bid for ownership. If they succeed it will herald a new era of privatisation in Italian football, just as is happening in Germany and other European nations.
Simon says: With the Monte Mario, a wooded hill on one side, and an delightful approach from the river via the Foro Italico (a tree-lined, white marble walkway with mosaics), the stadium has an enviable setting, befitting its national status. But although views of the surroundings have been cut off by the addition of the vaulted membrane roof, this wonderful piece of engineering also makes the stadium feel more compact, despite the dreaded athletics track. I just hope that privatisation does not result in the stadium being surrounded by ugly commercial developments put up to finance the deal. In the city where the first ever super stadium was built - the Colosseum in 70 AD - we expect some things to remain sacred!
A fan's view: My first time was 1970, holding papa's hand. I remember running up the steps, holding my breath and entering a universe of colours; the emerald green pitch, the colours of Lazio and Juventus, the giant scoreboards, 80,000 spectators. Everything seemed like a dream.
The old Olympic stadium was a thing of beauty: a stadium open to the sky, to the green hill of Monte Mario, to Rome's monuments and to the Tevere river.
But it was designed for athletics, not football. It wasn't comfortable. When it rained you went home wet. There was no underground station nearby. Parking was impossible. Still, the stadium had charm.
My greatest emotion there came in 1987 when Lazio won a decisive match to avoid humiliating relegation to Serie C, scoring the all-important goal - oh my god! - six minutes from time. There were 65,000 people there, and if ever you could touch the love for a football team, on that day you could.
In the 1980s the Roma chairman wanted to build a new stadium in the suburbs, with proper transport links and parking. But the politicians wouldn't allow the Olympic Stadium to rot, and so for the 1990 World Cup it was modernized and made all-seated. But from the curvas behind the goals you still have to stand to be able to see.
I know that progress is unstoppable. The Wembley cathedral is gone too. But I don't like the new Olympic stadium with its awful roof. It is a stadium like any other in the world, without a soul. Football is too much about business now. I ask myself, with football the way it is now, how can my young son ever love the game like his father did as a boy?
Clino D'Eletto (Curva Nord) is a doctor near Rome and supports Lazio.



Simon Inglis, December 2003

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