CARACAS, Monday May 16, 2011 | Update
102nd Anniversary
From cathedrals to architectural jewels

Sports stadiums have evolved along with technology, which has contributed both to the construction of sports facilities and to the development of services for sports fans. Sports venues in the 21st century belong to a new generation, since they have been conceived as multifunctional areas. The old grey-cement structures have given way to buildings that have became architectural references in the cities where they have been built. They are much more than a mere playground

Monday May 16, 2011  05:39 PM

Considering soccer as a religion led people to describe stadiums as "cathedrals" and, even though enthusiasm for this sport, far from fading, has increased, premises devoted to soccer look more like amusement parks than a shrine anchored in past centuries.

Sports have become a mass spectacle strongly related to TV. Therefore, they have to present an attractive offer. However, in spite of the fact that thanks to communication globalization you can see at your home the final game of the Champions League or Wimbledon tournament, stadiums remain full and people who visit them are expecting to live an unforgettable experience that transcend the mere events happening on the field or the track.

Sports facilities, from their construction to the services they offer to visitors, have evolved with the advent of the 21st century thanks to technology.

For those who study the advance of these structures, the Korea-Japan 2002 World's Cup defined a new architectural and functional model that provides these huge facilities with multifunctional characteristics.

For instance, Munich's Allianz Arena, which will house the final game of the next Champions League in 2012, is also used as a convention center for businessmen and its VIP boxes have been used for parties and commemorative events. Bayern Munich team's seat is also an icon of the city, with a structure that looks like an inflatable mattress that changes color, from red to white or blue. Like other stadiums, it is also a museum for tourists and local residents, who can see the year-long history of the German club and, at the same time, enjoy its construction work.

The image of a baseball evening sitting on wooden chairs, where you had to go to a metal cart to buy a hotdog may be nostalgic, but it is less and less common in the First World sports premises. The new Yankee Stadium in New York, which was open in 2009, changed the concept of service. Fans not only can seat on comfortable cushioned seats where they can wait for the food they order while watching the game, but also they can eat sushi and meat at the different restaurants existing in the facilities. Furthermore, the multiple displays of the stadium allow fans to follow the game, even in rest rooms.

Technology in sports has been put to the service not only of fans but also of athletes. In tennis, for instance, the "Hawk-Eye" allows players -and umpires- to check if a ball was in or out of the line; at least four cameras and a software application specially developed to project the ball trajectory are required.

However, the use of applied sciences to the construction of stadiums takes these huge cement structures to a new level and turns them into architectural jewels like the Beijing National stadium. This facility, which is colloquially known as the "Bird's Nest" due to its beautiful outside woven structure, was developed based on an ecological concept that uses rain water for irrigation and cleaning of the own facilities.

The 2008 Olympic Games in China also marked a milestone with the creation of the "Water Cube," the center where water sports competitions took place.

Its outside cover, created with air cushions, controls overheating, while its roof has a lighting system that makes the building change its color according to the weather conditions and the time of the day. As a result, the inside of the building will look blue in sunny days, yellow in the evening and white in the case of bad weather.

The next Olympic Games that will take place in London in 2012 will also offer breakthroughs.

England's pride is the new Wembley Stadium, seat of the national soccer team. The building not only has the largest number of lavatories (2,618) of this kind of facilities in the world, but also solved the old conflict of Olympic stadiums where soccer is also played.

The track for athletics competitions is installed on a movable platform that replaces the seats that are closer to the grass and this process takes only a few days.

However, its main accomplishment is its 133-meter arch. It not only is a visual reference for the city, but also supports the roof that can be opened in sunny days or closed in the usual rainy London's days.

Translated by Álix Hernández

The end of a cycle

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