Rungrado 1st of May: The World’s Biggest Stadium
Contrary to what most people may think, the biggest stadium in the world isn’t located in a country with a great history of soccer, or even with a successful club. It’s not the Camp Nou, Anfield, Santiago Bernabeu, San Siro, or Old Trafford. Surprisingly, the world’s biggest stadium is the Rungrado 1st of May, built in just two years and a half in the center of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, and its name comes from the combination of Labor’s Day and the Taedong river. This stadium has a little over 30 years of history, as it was opened on May 1, 1989, and it can fit as much as 150.000 people standing (114.000 seated). It also has as much as 10 stories and 80 different entries.
With over 207.000 square meters, this mythical construction is absolutely amazing and shocking for most of the tourists that are brave enough to travel to North Korea’s capital year after year. And it’s, of course, part of the official tour. Shaped like a flower thanks to its 16 arcs on the ceiling, this beautiful stadium looks like it’s actually floating over the river, or it can look like an open parachute depending on where you’re standing. The soccer field is next to the tracking field and it’s entirely made of natural grass. Also, the stadium has a lot of training halls, saunas, beds, and a lot of training facilities for the players, that can even take a swim in their pool.
Although, no one thinks of North Korea as a particularly sporty country, this stadium has seen lots of soccer matches, tracking competitions, thousands of festivals and even political meetings to gather the North Koreans to see their Supreme Leader every now and then. One of the shows that’s usually hosted on this stadium is the popular Arirang Festival, which takes place six times a week for two months to celebrate Kim Il-sung’s birthday, which is Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and North Korea’s original dictator. This festival is a huge representation with thousands of gymnasts that dance incredibly synchronized choreographies, and the bleachers are always full of young and impressionable teenagers that are encouraged to cheer their Supreme Leader.
Back to the stadium, it was actually rebuilt in 2014. The renovations included new locker rooms and a physical therapy room, meeting rooms and a media center, making it one of the most iconic buildings of the Kim Jon-un dictatorship. Obviously, like most in this country, people find it difficult to gather reliable information regarding the stadium and the services it can or cannot offer, mostly because of the way North Korea handles their foreign communications.
Even so, this great architectural wonder is definitely worth visiting -at least through google images-, and it’s a major shame we don’t actually get to see any soccer played on that beautiful grass. At least we can settle for the Salt Lake Stadium (135.000 people) and Estadio Azteca (105.064 people), the 2nd and 3rd biggest stadiums in the world.