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5 Coolest Olympic Stadiums You Can Actually Visit

The excitement is growing for the 2016 Olympics this summer in Rio, and as always one of the most eagerly awaited parts of the competition is the stadium itself! The Maracanã stadium, instantly recognisable by its slightly hypnotic circular roof, will host the opening ceremony and most of the football games, with several other stadiums across Rio welcoming other events. As the Olympics approach, we’re looking back at some of the most memorable Olympic stadiums ever built, and the most amazing ones you can still visit today.

Bird’s Nest, Beijing 2008

Beijing’s 2008 Olympics delivered plenty of wow factor, and the Beijing National Stadium, better known as the Bird’s Nest, was one of the most memorable elements of the whole event. The concrete structure of the stadium is encircled by a mass of steel beams tightly criss-crossed to create the impression of a bird’s nest, and at night the stadium is lit up to illuminate the bright red colour of the building. It’s not the only eye-catching design China created for the Games – the National Aquatics Center (or the Water Cube) also drew attention for its bold exterior covered in bright blue bubbles.

The Bird’s Nest is now open to the public as a tourist attraction and can easily be reached by bus or subway from central Beijing. The Aquatics Centre has been re-opened as an indoor water park, and will host some events at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Bird's Nest Olympic stadium, Beijing
Image credit: LU JINRONG / Shutterstock.com

Panatheniac Stadium, Athens 1896

A visit to the Panatheniac Stadium is a true glimpse into history, as this is the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It is also based on the stadium built for the Panathenian Games of Ancient Greece in 330BC, which was excavated in the 1870s and rebuilt in time for the Games in 1896. The beautifully simple u-shaped arena is made entirely of marble, and is a must-see when visiting Athens. It’s also open to joggers from 7.30-9am every day.

Panatheniac Olympic Stadium, Athens

Olympic Stadium, London 2012

The classic design of the London Olympics Stadium was well-received when it opened for the 2012 Olympics, but it was the imaginative design of the Aquatics Centre that really stole the show. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the building features two long walls made almost completely out of glass, and a graceful wave-like roof that is 160m long. The Olymic Stadium is currently open to the public to visit before it soon becomes West Ham’s football ground, and the Aquatics Centre is now used as a swimming baths for locals.

Olympic Aquatic Centre, London
Image credit: Ron Ellis / Shutterstock.com

Estadi Olimpic, Barcelona 1992

The Estadi Olimpic was actually built in 1927 ready for the International Expo in 1929 and Barcelona’s bid for the 1936 Olympics, but the Games were instead won by Berlin. In protest against the Games being hosted in Nazi Germany, Spain planned their own People’s Olympiad, but this had to be cancelled when the Spanish Civil War started. The stadium finally got its Olympic Games in 1992, and is now open to visitors. The stadium itself is arguably less remarkable than the sculptures and statues outside, which you can browse for free.

Estadi Olimpic, Barcelona
Image credit: nito / Shutterstock.com

Olympiastadion, Munich 1972

The 1972 Olympic Games were the first Games to be held in Germany since before World War II, and Munich used the opportunity to bring Germany out from under the shadow of the war. Built in the hollow of a pit made by bombs dropped on Munich, the Olympiastadion is covered in a sweeping glass canopy that was designed to imitate the Alps, symbolising the optimism of a new, democratic Germany. It was used to hold football matches until the millennium, and hosts a lot of open-air concerts from world famous bands.

Olympiastadion, Munich
Image credit: Dmitry Petrenko / Shutterstock.com

Have you visited any Olympic stadiums? Which is your favourite?