“ The Stade de France is a football and rugby union stadium in Saint-Denis, France, an inner suburb of Paris. It has a capacity of around 80,000. The stadium is currently used for the French rugby union team during the Six Nations and other internationals. Paris's main rugby club, Stade Français, have also regularly used the stadium as a home ground in recent years. Stade de France is also the venue for the Top 14 (the domestic rugby championship) final every year. The French football team also use the stadium, and it was there where they defeated Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 FIFA World Cup final. It was also used as the final venue for the Coupe de France (football competition). Stade de France has been the host for the Race of Champions for the past three years. In 2007, it will host several matches of the Rugby World Cup, including the final. „
* Prices may differ from that shown
we're going to Gay Paris
so the song went.
I visited the Stade de France for Arsenal's ill-fated Champions League final against Barcelona and here is my opinion of the stadium.
*** History ***
This stadium was built to concede with France hosting the World Cup in 1998. It was built in 3 years at a cost of £260 million pounds. It is built in the St Denis region in the outskirts of Paris. Incredibly the lower tier has been designed so it can be moved forwards or backwards by 15 meters bringing spectators closer to the action.
*** Ticket Prices ***
For this match the range of prices were £128, £100, £78 and £43. The majority of tickets were £43 so this seemed a reasonable price.
*** Transport ***
The State de France can be reached via the metro or over ground train. I took the train via Le Garde du Nord station so I can only comment on this means of transport.
Firstly it was a nightmare getting on the train. Clearly there is going to be tension when you have 20,000+ Londoners boarding rush hour trains with Parisians who want to return home after a tiring day. The trains were absolutely packed and led to a few pleasantries being exchanged as we all tried to squeeze on. However the journey is very short approximately 5 minutes and when you leave reach the station the stadium is 5 minutes walk away.
*** Exterior ***
From a distance this stadium looks very impressive. It has a chrome circular exterior and looks space age. It is enormous and imposes itself on all around it. Exiting the station you are impressed by its scale and you feel you are going to a special occasion.
Around the ground on the day we went, they had numerous food stalls and beer tents. As one would expect these were grossly over priced. Furthermore, these stalls also seemed insistent on blaring out techno music which I could have done without as I was recovering from the mother of all hangovers.
*** Security/Organisation ***
When you watch your television screens and you see English hooligans rampaging through the streets of civilised Europe, you are seeing only half the picture. Anyone who had followed their team in Europe will tell you that the police are heavy handed to stay the least. I have been on a number of European trips and the way English football fans are treated is very different to all other countries.
This was true of this occasion too. The police did their best impression of highly charged nutters waiting for an excuse to attack someone. What was a carnival atmosphere was tinged by their heavy handed ways. After the game I had the delight full pleasure of sampling their tear gas from a distance. Why I don't know but this is the pleasure one is afforded for being an English man abroad.
*** Entry ***
This was a bit chaotic. Arsenal officially had 21,000 tickets but there were 50,000 fans there so of course a few were going to try their luck at blagging their way in. However a surprising number of people were successful (good luck to them). Yet these make things chaotic. The only thing blocking entry into the ground was an outside turnstile or high fences. Of course many people pushed in on the back of others and this could have been dangerous.
*** The outside of the stadium ***
Once through the turnstile I was struck by how barren looking the outside was. At ground level you are faced with concrete pillars that detract from the metallic ring. There were a few shops on this level stocking standard fare e.g. overpriced merchandise. These shops were supposed to stock the match day programme but they had sold out two hours before kick off. They had only printed 12,000 programmes for a crowd of 70,000 +. Ridiculous.
Underneath the stands were the food outlets. They were well stocked with sandwiches, hotdogs and drinks and at the time I used them the cues were small. The food was of course overpriced (why miss a chance to fleece football fans) but the ham and cheese sandwich I had was reasonable.
The toilets were awful as one expects. In our section there was a urinal that could fit four and two of those lavatories were there is a hole in floor. About an hour before kick off the toilets were already over flowing and the stench was rising.
*** Inside the Stadium ***
It is a circular bowl holding 80,000 supporters although this can be reduced. Each stand is divided into sections. There are 3 main levels and also alot of corporate areas. The sight lines to the pitch are excellent and everyone I spoke to view had a great view of the game. Full of baying fans it is a sight to behold but I don't think the acoustics are as good as say the Millennium Stadium. At times the whole Arsenal end were singing but the noise didn't really travel. It seemed to get lost which is a shame. Inside the ground are two giant screens that keep you informed of the score and project video images before the game? The seats were comfortable and there was a reasonable gap between rooms for leg room (although this will be nothing compared to the comfort offered by Arsenal's new ground the Emirates Stadium!). All in all a very impressive ground.
*** Closing Thoughts ***
A stunning ground and a tribute to great architecture by Michel Macary and Aymeric Zubléna; and Michel Regembal and Claude Costantini. The arena is fantastic but some of the amenities surrounding the ground are not great but could be different if you were watching a rugby game for example.
With Wembley soon to be opened and Ashburton Grove it will be interesting to see how these compare to this imposing structure.
Anyway this time next year I'll be back from Athens and I'll review that stadium but this time we will bring the cup home.
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