The Grandest Olympic Stadiums of All Time

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The excitement over the 2020 Summer Olympics has been building since Tokyo won the bid to host the prestigious event, edging out Istanbul and Madrid. Then began the process of erecting buildings worthy of inspiring the entire world. While the fate of the Tokyo Olympics hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are examining other cities that have succeeded in creating structures that have stood the test of time and continue to be as awe-inspiring and groundbreaking as the games themselves. If all goes according to plan, the Olympic torch will be lit in Greece on March 12 (without spectators due to the virus), and the 121-day Olympic torch relay will begin in Fukushima on March 26 and begin the route to Tokyo.


1. Montreal Olympic Stadium
Montreal, Canada

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The 1976 Summer Games were a perfect excuse for then-mayor Jean Drapeau, to green light a stadium that could be used for the city's Major League Baseball team, the Montreal Expos. The building is a feat of engineering and its 45-degree angled tower is the world's tallest inclined tower. The "Big Owe" was famous for its design, as well as its cost and schedule overruns, with its initial retractable roof not completed for over a decade.

2. University Olympic Stadium
Mexico City, Mexico


One of the most notable parts of this stadium is the unfinished set of murals on the east side of the stadium, which were meant to be Diego Rivera's greatest work, but the artist died before they could be completed.

3.Aquatics Centre
London, United Kingdom

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This roof that curves both on the inside and out is one of the most recognizable structures by famed architect Zaha Hadid. Built for the 2012 Summer Olympics, this building is meant to replicate the movement of not only the water inside the structure, but also of the neighboring Waterworks River.

4. Olympiastadion Munchen
Munich, Germany

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Built for the 1972 Summer Olympics, this stadium designed by Günter Behnisch and engineered by Frei Otto is known for its lightweight, transparent "membrane" canopies that cover the stadium and the surrounding buildings. Unfortunately, the innovative architecture was overshadowed by an attack by "Black September" Palestinian terrorists on the Israeli Olympic Team, resulting in the deaths of 11 athletes, one policeman and the perpetrators.

5. Stockholm Stadium
Stockholm, Sweden


In a sea of modern and futuristic designs, the Stockholm Stadium stands out for its classical castle-esque architecture. Built for the 1912 Summer Olympics, this stadium also holds the record for hosting the most broken records in a single Olympics.

6. Spyros Louis Olympic Stadium
Athens, Greece

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The two curved poles running parallel and flanking the open roof of this stadium from the 2004 Summer Olympics look more like a suspension bridge than a stadium. The stadium itself was built in 1982, but its most recognizable aspects were added during the 2004 refurbishment.

7. Beijing National Stadium
Beijing, China

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The 2008 Summer Games in Beijing were full of amazing constructions, including the Aquatics Center, known as the Water Cube. But the Beijing National Stadium (or Bird's Nest) stands apart for its unique curved criss-crossing beams inspired by Chinese-style crazed pottery and the plans for it to be reused at the 2022 Winter Games. Designed to allow the audience an unobstructed view from anywhere in the stands, the exterior is especially striking when lit up at night.

8. Yoyogi National Gymnasium
Tokyo, Japan

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Described by architect Kenzo Tange as a "hybridization of western modernist aesthetics and traditional Japanese architecture," the subtle curves of the roof are meant to integrate with the surrounding landscape. Built for the 1964 Summer Olympics, the building is still respected today for its forward-thinking tensile suspended roof.

9. Dunc Gray Velodrome
Sydney, Australia

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Most of the iconic buildings of the Olympics are the main stadiums, often used for track and field, but the futuristic interior of the Dunc Gray Velodrome housed indoor cycling, and the curved seating mimics the curve of the building and the track, giving the interior the more interesting appearance.