Rome’s Olympic Stadium celebrates 70 years

Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was inaugurated 70 years ago today, on 17 May 1953.

However the stadium’s history dates back to 1928 when construction began on a smaller structure – known as the Stadio dei Cipressi – built on the same site in what was then known as the Foro Mussolini, rechristened the Foro Italico after world war two. Indeed in 1940 the war interrupted efforts to add a second tier of stairs to the stadium which was reopened in 1953.

The stadium’s last major restyling took place in the 1980s, in preparation for the Italia ’90 World Cup, while in 2008 a further restructuring effort saw the stadium upgraded to “elite” status by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

The capital’s largest sports facility, the 72,000-seater stadium in north Rome is home to Serie A football clubs AS Roma and Lazio, Italy’s national athletics team and the Italian national rugby union team which transferred from the smaller 25,000-seater Flaminio stadium several years ago.

However the biggest event held at the stadium was the 1960 Olympic Games, the highlight of which was when Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila won a marathon gold medal while running barefoot.

It hosted the 1990 World Cup final when West Germany beat Argentina 1-0, as well as several Champions League finals and Six Nations rugby matches.

Over the years the stadium has also hosted numerous musical events, welcoming top international musicians such as the Rolling Stones, REM, U2 and Madonna, as well as Italian stars such as Vasco Rossi, Ligabue and Jovanotti, while during the jubilee year of 2000 Pope John Paul II even paid a visit.

In June the 33rd edition of the Golden Gala, Italy’s annual track and field event, takes place at the stadium and will feature the six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt among other top international athletes.