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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Stade de Gerland is primarily the home of French Ligue 1 club Olympique Lyonnaise, but the venue has also hosted matches in football’s World Cup and European Championships and rugby’s World Cup. The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie are just a few of many famous artists who have also played at the 40,500 all-seated stadium.
Opened in 1926, the stadium has undertaken various refurbishments over the years. Although still holding a UEFA category stadium license, the venue is now starting to show its age, as Olympique Lyonnaise will move to a brand new stadium in 2014, one that is also being built to host games during the 2016 European Football Championships. The stadium consists of four separate stands, and its floodlights are clearly visible as you approach the stadium. The stadium concourses are disappointing for a major stadium, and toilet facilities are also poor. However, the stadium has a proud history and is certainly one to visit before it disappears for good.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Once inside the stadium, there is little on offer other than hot dogs and sandwiches, so if you are hungry, then fill up on the approaches to the stadium, where you will find stalls selling kebabs in pita bread for around €4. The stadium kiosks also sell chocolate, ice cream, and soft drinks.
The stadium may be a little run down, but the atmosphere inside for the game I attended that saw PSG crowned champions did not disappoint. Other friends who have also visited the stadium have also said the same. Despite not having the corners filled in, the noise generated from the crowd is retained throughout, and this is a venue that the home supporters ensure is hostile for visiting teams.
Lyon is Frances third largest city and is known as the commercial, banking and industrial capital of the country. The city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it has plenty to offer the visitor. The city is also only a one and a half hour drive from the Swiss border, and the area is an ideal base for visiting other areas of Europe. Although there are a few bars within a couple of blocks from the stadium, it is probably best to eat in the city. Hotels in the city can be expensive, though we stayed at the Hotel Lyon Ouest, which was reasonably priced and good value. The hotel is located by the river and only a ten minute drive from the city and fifteen minute drive from the stadium itself.
Lyonnaise are a well-supported club that regularly attracts crowds of over 35,000 for each game. Regular qualifiers for the Champions League, supporters consider these times to be quiet, as the club were League Champions in France for seven consecutive times from 2002. Everywhere in the city, you will see the club's white, blue, and red colours displayed. Although supporters are sad to leave the Stade de Gerland, they see the move to the new stadium as the next step to becoming one of Europe's major footballing powerhouses.
Stade de Gerland is located toward the south of the city approximately 5 kilometres from Saint-Jean Cathedral and 4 kilometres from Lyon-Perrache railway station. If driving, take the Exit 1 from the A7, which will take you to the stadium, but be aware that parking is difficult. We arrived one and a half hours before kick-off and struggled to park. The best idea is to take Metro Line B to the stadium stop. Lyon has two airports, and Geneva Airport is a pleasant one and half hour's drive away through the hills.
Tickets are priced between €25 and €60 and can be purchased online at the club's excellent website. Prices increase depending upon opposition, and although the quality of football is good, supporter facilities are poor. Smoking is also a problem if you are a non-smoker.
There is a good club shop near to the stadium which does a good trade on a match day. A newspaper-style programme is given away free of charge within the stadium.
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