- Sander Kolsloot
Stadio Olimpico – AS Roma
Photos by Sander Kolsloot, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Stadio Olimpico Viale dei Gladiatori Rome, Lazio 00135 Italy
AS Roma website Stadio Olimpico website
Year Opened: 1937 Capacity: 73,261
When in Rome
The Olympic Stadium in Rome, Stadio Olimpico, was built as the centerpiece of the Foro Italia Sports complex, formerly Foro Mussolini. It was built and designed during the reign of dictator Benito Mussolini and was originally called Stadio del Cipressi.
The whole sports complex was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini under the design of Enrico Del Debbio and, later, Luigi Moretti.
Inspired by the Roman forums of the imperial age, its design is lauded as a preeminent example of Italian Fascist architecture instituted by Mussolini. In the design and the actual build, you can still see the grandiosity the builders had in mind when designing the complex. Especially if you check the ‘sculpture garden’ (stadio dei Marmi) with about 40 to 50 full size athletic figures.
Work on the stadium started in 1927 and when finished in 1932, the stadium was compiled of just one, grass-seat tier for spectators. In 1937, the stadium was to be extended by a second tier, but due to the outbreak of World War II, work on that part was halted in 1940.
After the war, in 1950, the stadium site was reopened for the finishing and somehow the architect at that time, Carlo Rocatelli, wanted to put his stamp on history. But as for so many history makers, he did not live to see his work. He died in 1951 and because of scarcity of funds and the environmental characteristics of the area, a less ambitious version of Rocatelli’s stadium was eventually built. . On the death of Roccatelli, the work was entrusted to architect Annibale Vitellozzi, who eventually created a 100,000 capacity stadium, (hence giving it the name Stadio dei Centomila, which the stadium was called before 1960), with the upcoming Olympiad in sight, the building was inaugurated on 17 May 1953 hosting a football game between Italy and Hungary.
For the 1960 Olympic Games, the stadium had to undergo some renovations and it had to be turned into an all-seater stadium, significantly reducing the capacity from 100,000 to 65,000 seats.
Stadio Olimpico served as the centrepiece stadium for the 1960 Olympics and it hosted both opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics competition.
The Stadio Olimpico had been largely unchanged until the 1980s, when Italy was awarded the host for the 1990 World Cup. In the meantime it had played host to two European Football championships (1968 and 1980, both times hosting several group matches and the final). It furthermore hosted a European Cup final twice: the first being the clash between Liverpool and Borussia Mönchengladbach (3-1) in 1977 and the second in 1984, with again Liverpool being victorious over AS Roma (1-1, Penalty shootout win). Also, it was host to the 1987 World Athletics Championships and the 1975 Summer Universiade.
When Italy was awarded the 1990 World Cup, it was clear that the stadium needed a massive renovation. While initial plans only aimed to slightly restyle the stadium, in the end an almost complete new stadium had been built. Stands were moved closer to the pitch, a roof was added, covering all seats and the capacity was brought up to 74,000 spectators.
During the World Cup, Stadio Olimpico hosted some group matches, a round of 16 match and the eventual final, where West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0.
In later years, the stadium hosted two more Champions League finals, in 1996 and 2000.
To keep up with the UEFA standards for eligibility to host future Champions League Finals, Stadio Olimpico underwent a last refurbishment in 2007 which included the establishment of standard structures, with improvements in security, the adjustment of dressing rooms and the press room, the complete replacement of the seats, installing high definition LED screens, the partial removal of plexiglas fences between spectators and the field, and a reduction of seating, to the current capacity of 73,261.
While the stadium is owned by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), its regular users are Rome’s two major football clubs; SS Lazio and AS Roma. The two teams share the stadium during the season, with the difference during the games being Roma using the Curva Sud for its fans and Lazio using the Curva Nord.
Roma is the left orientated, working class team in Roma. Football and politics are somehow intertwined in Italian football (the best example is AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi, who happens to have been prime minister of Italy).
Food & Beverage 2
As Italians are known around the world for their simple but excellent kitchen, combined with fantastic wines, fresh products and so on, don’t expect anything close to that in the Stadio Olimpico. Soggy sandwiches with average hot dogs going for a whopping € 4, some crisps not to be named in particular for € 3, and just your regular choice of sodas, all overpriced at € 3. If you are unfortunate enough to be in the away section, beer and other alcoholic beverages are off limits. There are multiple suggestions for a good pre and after match drinking and eating session in Rome, so let’s discuss options in the neighborhood section.
Let’s face the truth, the stadium was built as a multi-sport venue, with its main goal to serve as the track stadium for the 1960 Olympic games. With this in mind, the stadium has a way too big capacity for the home games of both Lazio and Roma. This makes the atmosphere go down rapidly, as playing in a half empty stadium makes it a little spooky. Furthermore, there’s a track (of course needed for athletics events, such as the Golden League) in between the stands and the field, making you a more distant spectator than ideally wanted. Fans flock into the stadium rather late and aren’t known for creating a great atmosphere. If you want to be in for a real treat, go to one of the derby games (Roma – Lazio or Lazio – Roma) and you’ll be very surprised!
The stadium lies within the Foro Italico neighborhood and there’s not much to do there. You can check the surrounding area, with a few other sports arenas (stadio dei Marma and also the Stadio Flamini, home to the Rugby team). If you really want to have a good Roma experience, and yes this is not in the exact neighborhood of the stadium, you have to go to Pigneto, which is a predominantly AS Roma neighborhood and you will find two great spots to get our pre match drinks and some great local grub. First, get some good craft beers at Birra + (Via del Pigneto) and after that, get some great pork meat at I Porchettoni, (via del Pigneto). Both are located just across the street from each other. The atmosphere in both venues is really relaxed, low key and prices are low to moderate, with I Porchettoni being an absolute slammer!
Fans in Italy are known to be very passionate about their team, so is the case for Roma fans. This also has a negative side as they are occasionally known for using knives on supporters of visiting (rival) teams. Lately, several incidents have happened and this doesn’t show the real fans. During the game, the Curva Sud is decked with flags, banners and people waving scarves. The rest of the stadium is rather laid back. Expect the heat to come on during rival games against Lazio, but try to avoid visiting a European Cup match, as Italian fans tend to dislike that competition.
There is some singing during the match, but for example Sampdoria fans in their Luigi Ferraris stadium are far more into the game than the Roma fans.
Fans enter the stadium fairly late (5 minutes before the game) and therefore you lack the typical pre game atmosphere. Furthermore, the away section is so remotely located from the other fans, there’s no real banter going on there as well. There is usually some shouting/singing between rival groups of fans.
The ground is very easy to find, it being on a main road and close to both the city centre and the peripheral roads. The best way to access the stadium is take a bus line from the city centre (linia 100) and this one stops fairly close to the stadium. Also, you can take a car to the area, but parking can be a pain. The stadium itself is very accessible, also for disabled people. Check upfront to see where you can best access the stadium with a wheelchair.
Return on Investment 3
As far as football games in general, the ROI is average. The venue is too big for the amount of support for the team, you are too far away from the field and especially the prices (€35 for an away seat behind the goal) are very hefty. However, it is a historic venue, where so many great events have occurred. If you do go, try to get tickets to a rival match or one against top side Juventus or Napoli, and you’ll get a better return on your sporting dollar.
There are no stadium tours on non-match days, the fan shop is only open on match days and for a limited time. The surrounding foro Italico has some interesting facilities, but don’t make up for the other inconveniences. Besides the historic nature, there is very little in the way of extras to speak of.