Wembley in London has been a centre for sporting activity since Victorian times. The past century has seen two iconic world class Stadiums constructed on the site which has become a cathedral for English football.
Wembley Stadium’s graceful arch is a familiar sight to Londoners. But the Wembley area is no stranger to sporting venues − the current stadium is the most recent incarnation of a sporting tradition that dates back to the 1880s.
It is well known that the England national football team’s home venue was rebuilt between 2003 and 2007. The previous Wembley Stadium had been in place since 1923 − that’s 80 years.
But did you know that as far back as Victorian times, Wembley Park Leisure Grounds had football and cricket pitches and a running track?
Over time that venue even evolved into an 18 hole golf course. It was not until after the First World War ended in 1918 that the government decided to build a stadium.
The new venue would be the centrepiece to a British Empire Exhibition at which 56 countries would exhibit and interact.
This is why Wembley Stadium was originally called the Empire Stadium. It was designed by engineer Sir Owen Williams and took less than one year to complete at a cost of £750,000.
The original plan was to demolish the stadium after the exhibition − but luckily that did not happen.
The venue remained as the home of English football for many decades and famously hosted England’s 4-2 World Cup Final victory against West Germany in 1966.
Unfortunately, after so many years it could no longer keep up with the requirements of huge football crowds, and a redevelopment was planned.
The stadium closed in October 2000 and was demolished in 2003. The top of one of the iconic twin towers was erected as a memorial in a nearby park.
The new Wembley Stadium was designed by a consortium including engineering consultant Mott MacDonald and built by Australian construction firm Multiplex at a cost of £798M.
Unfortunately, delays meant the project was finished a year late, but now the stadium’s 133m high lattice steel arch is as iconic as the old towers − and is the world’s longest unsupported roof structure to boot.
Now, Wembley Stadium will host the football finals of the 2012 London Olympics, and it is central to England’s bids to host the football World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.