The Colosseum, a redoubtable icon of sporting history, an awe-inspiring structure, one which pushed the limits of sport, an amphitheatre synonymous with gruesome gladiators, but also known for its graceful and imposing architecture.
Modern day stadia might not match up to the lofty standards that were set by the Roman Empire, but they have succeeded in creating a legacy of their own and etched their names in sporting history. These venues are consecrated and their divine status draws record crowds when they play host to the sport that has befitted them this apotheosis.
Sport is as catholic as it is parochial. It divides and unites people at the same time. The sporting fervour and frenzy that envelops us, reaches a zenith when the action shifts to one of these landmarks, these citadels where history has been written and re-written time and again. Where legends are made, records are broken and hearts are won, all culminating in that ultimate sporting moment, one which is imprinted in memory and one which only serves to aggrandize the legacy of our modern day coliseums.
Those that made it
Old Course, St. Andrews – Golf
The Old Course at St. Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses in the world and is widely regarded as the spiritual home of the sport. It is believed that the sport was first played on the Links at St. Andrews in the early 1400s. The Old Course is a landmark venue and one which has been pivotal to the development of the sport, creating the standard of 18 holes, changing from the earlier 22 hole format. The Old Course is synonymous with the The Open Championship, one of the oldest majors in golf. It has hosted this major 28 times since 1873, with the most recent one being in 2010.
The Old Course is also famous for the Swilcan Bridge, spanning the first and 18th holes. Everyone who plays the 18th hole walks over this 700 year old bridge. It has been the backdrop of many a sporting triumph and borne witness to many a farewell of some of the most iconic golfers.
Wimbledon – Tennis
There are few sporting venues that can be compared to the legacy that the Wimbledon commands. Steeped in tradition, be it the strict all-white dress code or the famous strawberries and cream breakfast, the All England Tennis Club enjoys a divine status. The Centre Court has been witness to many spectacles and many a moment of magic. The grassy turf has been graced by all the greats of the game, from the Bjorg-McEnroe rivalry, to the magnificent ferocity of Pete Sampras and provided the backdrop for the epic final of all time, between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in 2008. Wimbledon is synonymous with a penchant for adhering to tradition, with any hint of a change being frowned upon. However, while the addition of the retractable roof over the Centre Court belies this notion, it merely adds to the legacy that is Wimbledon.
Lord’s – Cricket
Lord’s is to cricket what St. Andrews is to golf, often regarded as the spiritual home of the game. Another sporting landmark that represents more than just history, Lord’s is owned by the Marylbone Cricket Club, the founding fathers of the laws of the game. Lord’s origins began when Thomas Lord was asked to set up an exclusive green when the nobility’s patience wore thin, with the public crowds that gathered to watch the matches of the time.
Fenway Park – Baseball
Now celebrating its centennial year, Fenway Park is the oldest baseball stadium in the world. Boasting of 760 consecutive sell-outs, this iconic venue is home to the Boston Red Sox. Constructed on an asymmetrical block, the stadium gets it name, according to owner John Taylor, from its location in the Fenway neighbourhood of Boston. One of the more beautiful ball parks, Fenway boasts of quite a number of quirky features, the Triangle, Pesky’s Pole and the famous Green Monster. Another interesting little tidbit is The Lone Red Seat which signifies the longest home run ever hit at the Park. This iconic venue is only one of two remaining classic ball parks in Major League Baseball, the other being Wrigley Field and has played host to many a baseball legend, from Bambino ‘The Babe’ Ruth to ‘The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived’ Ted Williams.
Circuit de Monaco – Motor Racing
The principality has been host to the Grand Prix of Monaco since 1929. A circuit that embodies the glitz and glamour of Formula One as much as the breathtakingly fast machines that form the pith of the sport, Monaco is the number one race track on every driver’s list. While speeds around the streets of Monte Carlo are noticeably slower, its tight corners and unforgiving nature against the backdrop of the picturesque harbour make for an enthralling spectacle – one that attracts the rich and famous in throngs.
The circuit is unique in having hosted the race every time it has been run over such a long period. One notable incident, as humorous as it was dangerous, is Alberto Ascari’s crash in 1955 that ended with the driver enjoying a cold landing having ended up in the harbour. The Monaco Grand Prix is widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious races in the world alongside the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The ones that nearly sneaked in
Madison Square Garden – Boxing
The Garden, as it is popularly known, witness to The Fight of the Century between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, is perhaps the most iconic boxing landmark. Currently in its fourth incarnation, the venue is the oldest arena in the National Hockey League and the second oldest in the National Basketball Association, playing home to the New York Rangers and Knicks respectively.
Old Yankee Stadium – Baseball
The House that Ruth Built, the Yankee Stadium was home to the New York Yankees until 2008. The stadium was the location of ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’, albeit in NFL and is also unique in that three Popes have held mass at the Yankee stadium.
Rolland Garros – Tennis
A close rival to Wimbledon, Rolland Garros was built in 1928 to play host to France’s first defense of the Davis Cup. The red surface stands out among the other Grand Slams and has witnessed some great players rise to prominence, from the legendary Bjorn Borg to the current master of clay, Rafael Nadal who has 7 French Open titles to his name. Interestingly, while the surface is said to be red clay, the courts are actually surfaced with white limestone frosted with powdered red brick dust.
Pebble Beach – Golf
Widely regarded as one of the most picturesque and spectacular golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach was built with a ‘figure 8′ layout, the objective being the placement of as many of the holes as possible along the rocky and beautiful Monterey coast line.
Santiago Bernabeu (Football), Augusta National (Golf), Old Trafford (Football), Indianapolis Speedway (Motor Racing) and Churchill Downs (Horse Racing)