More than just a stadium…
"There are moments when the many through the few become one". That’s how the Welsh poet Owen Sheers captured the essence of watching sport at Wales’ national stadium. But how does it feel being there? And why does it hold such a special place in the hearts of people who follow their passions and their teams to Wales’ national stadium?
The National Stadium of Wales in the heart of Cardiff is a stadium that captivates an entire population, making us believe. It represents Wales’ collective spirit, and reminds us what we can achieve when we come together. Unquestionably, it is the country's most important and iconic building, a symbol of 21st century Wales and part of what they called “Cool Cymru”.
It’s our stadium, our coliseum and for many of us here in Wales, a place of worship. Supporters travel from all four corners of the country to see their heroes in the flesh and to feel the warmth of the flames on their painted faces.
It’s a modern day pilgrimage, the chance to hear the roar of the crowd singing “Gwlad, Gwlad!” (“Country, Country!”) This is one of the legendary wonders of Wales.
74, 500 voices and one glorious sound
An architectural wonder
Architecturally, the stadium is spectacular. It doesn't just dominate the Cardiff skyline, it IS the Cardiff skyline. It’s impossible to ignore. Wherever you are in Cardiff you catch a glimpse of its angular corners. Those spires punching through the clouds, peeping out above rooftops or silhouetted against the setting sun.
On Instagram, you can swipe through thousands of images of the stadium bathed in every possible light, sitting majestically upon the River Taff as it keeps watch over the city and it’s people.
The Manic Street Preachers played here on New Year’s Eve, as 1999 became 2000, belting out their anthemic “Design for Life” into the early hours of a new century. This was a stadium designed for life in the new millennia.
The stadium is a beacon of strength and industry, made up of 56,000 tonnes of concrete and 200,000 nuts and bolts. It has the largest retractable roof in Europe, taking a full 20 minutes to open.
A city within a city
And it is not just a building. It's a citadel - a city within a city. On a match day there are over 1000 staff scurrying through a complex web of subterranean tunnels and in and out of the stadium’s 1131 doors.
Behind those bars, the stadium has some marvellous contraptions known as "joy machines" capable of pouring 12 pints every 20 seconds.
Stadium staff have even trained a falcon (called ‘Dad’) to scare other birds away from the venue, and guard the pitch when it’s empty so that smaller birds don’t invade (we’ve got them to thank for the lack of pigeon poo on the seats!).
It’s a top class venue well used to big ticket events: Rugby Union World Cups, Rugby League World Cups, The only ever “home” fixture for the British and Irish Lions, The Community Shield, The Challenge Cup Final, the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, Monster trucks, World Rally, Speedway Grand Prix, Equestrian eventing…even auditions for X-Factor were held in the stadium. One Direction and Beyoncé have played there and in 2017, Coldplay sold out two nights. Now we can add World Heavyweight Championship Boxing to the list.
Whether your favourite stadium moment was Ian Rush’s match winning goal against Germany, Gareth Edwards’ 1973 try for the Baa Baas or Steven Gerrard’s sizzling strike from 40 yards to break West Ham hearts in the 125th FA Cup Final – the stadium’s presence will live on long after you’ve left. It is a theatre where Wales’ best dramas are played out.
All roads lead to the stadium
The stadium’s crowning glory through all its history, changes and guises? Its location. Slap, bang in the middle of the city. All roads, routes and rivers lead there. Step off the train, it's the first thing you see. On match day you can be anywhere along Westgate Street as kick off approaches, but you can finish your drink, leave the pub and still get to your seat in time for the anthems.
Next time you are passing the stadium, maybe buying a hot snack at Riverside Market over the bridge from one of the stadium gates, or walking in the park near the castle, perhaps sailing by on one of the boats that go to Cardiff bay, or waiting for a train at Cardiff Central…just stop for a moment, look up at this magnificent beast and drink in the sheer sight of it.
In those spires horizons sing….
We’ll see you at the gate!