Once upon a time there were amphitheatres, used for gladiatorial games and celebrations. Wrestlers were joined by ferocious animals like lions, tigers, bears and even rhinos. The largest amphitheatre in the world, as is known, was and still is the Colosseum, capable of containing about 75,000 people.
Today the amphitheatres have been replaced by stadiums, where football players clash instead of gladiators. However, there are not many stadiums that manage to exceed the ancient capacity of the Colosseum.
What is the biggest stadium in the world? Which structure can hold the greatest number of spectators?
One might think that, since football is the most popular sport in many European countries, many of the biggest stadiums in the world would be found there. Not so: in fact, in the top 10, there are no Italian structures nor European ones to be mentioned. The largest European stadium, the Campo Nou, the legendary arena of Barcelona, hosts just under 100,000 seats, a number far from those of the biggest stadiums in the world. Despite being able to count on numerous services such as a museum, the “blaugrana” camp stops at 14th place in the world rankings. If compared with the biggest stadiums in the world, even the Italian giants find themselves smaller: with the Meazza in Milan, also known as San Siro, that does not exceed 80,000 seats and the Olympic stadium in Rome at 70,000.
The world's largest stadiums: the ranking
Rungrado May Day Stadium - The biggest stadium in the world is where you do not expect it - North Korea, in Pyongyang. Firmly at the top of the table with its 150,000 seats, it was inaugurated in 1989. More than football - although hosting some North Korean national games - the stadium is dedicated to mass performances organised by the regime. In recent years, the largest stadium in the world has undergone restoration work, with a significant reduction in seating capacity.
Salt Lake Stadium - Even the second largest stadium in the world is in Asia, more specifically in Calcutta. With 120,000 seats, Salt Lake Stadium is the home of the Mohun Bagan A.C., East Bengal Football Club and Mohammedan S.C. On special occasions - and in a way that is not entirely regular - it is said that the structure has come to accommodate 131,000 people. It was built in 1984, has an elliptical shape and is organised on three rings.
Michigan Stadium - We move to the United States, to Ann Arbor. Built in 1927 and expanded on several occasions, the structure nicknamed "The Big House" accommodates up to 115,000 people. This capacity was also achieved thanks to building the first tiers below ground level, thus compensating for the reduced height of the structure.
Beaver Stadium - We stay in the States, moving to Pennsylvania. Famous for barbecues that are set up outside the stadium before the football matches, the Beaver has a capacity of over 106,000 people. The history of the structure dates back to the 19th century, with a succession of renovations, expansions and even displacements.
Azteca Stadium - The fifth largest stadium in the world is located in Mexico, and is the home of Club América. Built between 1963 and 1966, it is the only stadium in the world to have hosted two finals of the world football championship, in 1970 and 1986. The seats are a total of 105,000, structured on three rings. Two curiosities: here is where was played what is remembered as the "Game of the Century" between Italy and West Germany in 1970. It ended 4-3 for the Azzurri. Then there was the 1986 "Goal of the Century" by Diego Armando Maradona.
Ohio Stadium - This stadium has 104,900 seats. Inaugurated in Columbus in 1922, it mainly hosts football matches. Up until 2014, it was used only during the day for lack of lighting. The Ohio Stadium was also the stage of numerous concerts: from Pink Floyd to Genesis to the Rolling Stones to Metallica.
Kyle Field - The seventh largest stadium in the world is in Texas and is the home of the Aggies, a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletics Association. Built in 1927 and expanded several times, it has a total of 102,700 seats.
Neyland Stadium - This Tennessee-based facility in Knoxville also ranks among the world's largest stadiums in terms of capacity. Dedicated above all to college football matches, the stadium boasts 102,455 seats. Until 2010 the capacity was significantly higher, but it was reduced to ensure greater security.
Tiger Stadium - The penultimate stage of our ranking is in Louisiana and has 102,321 seats. Nicknamed "Death Valley" to frighten opposing football teams, the Tiger Stadium was inaugurated in 1924.
Bryant-Denny Stadium - The 10th largest stadium in the world is in Alabama with an official capacity of 101,821 seats. It was inaugurated in 1929.
This ranking of the biggest stadiums in the world, in the coming years, is destined to undergo changes. To undermine the positions of the podium there will in fact be "The Lion of Babylon" stadium, a structure of about 135,000 seats and a futuristic design that will be built in Iraq.
The genesis of this work is curious: on the occasion of a friendly between the national football teams of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the Saudi King Salam bet with the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi that, in case of a defeat for his team, he would build a gigantic stadium. Against all odds, Iraq managed to defeat Saudi Arabia, already qualified for the world championships and widely favoured, thus giving way, by bet, to the design of this pharaonic stadium.