Roland Garros: Where Does it Rank Amongst the World's Best Sports Venues
A great stadium is like a dream house. It has to have class and comfort and also be rich in history. A truly special arena has to be unique and have a certain charm about and can't be a cookie-cutter design. Behemoth modern structures that are only impressive in scale are frowned upon well.
Most importantly though, the defining characteristic of truly memorable stadiums is whether or not they are places that produce a lot of wonderful memories.
How does Roland Garros stack up against the legendary stadiums? Here are the top 10 venues in sports.
Honorable Mention: The Masters at Augusta National
Not technically a stadium, but rather a course, The Masters qualifies as honorable mention as it is probably the most recognized golfing event in the world. One of the four tournaments that makes up golf's Grand Slam, the Masters benefits from being the only such tournament to never switch sites.
A combination of its rich traditions, the incredibly exclusivity of the private club, its breathtaking beauty and legendary holes like those of Amen corner make Augusta National every golfer's dream to play and Sundays at the Masters one of the best days high drama television.
10. Hinkle Fieldhouse
When Hinkle Fieldhouse was finished in 1928, it was the largest arena in the United States, a distinction which lasted another 22 years until 1950. Today it is the sixth-oldest college basketball stadium still is use and was awarded a U.S. National Historic Landmark recognition.
Most famously, Hinkle Fieldhouse was the setting and stadium used for the movie Hoosiers, one of the most watched sports movies of all time. The movie was based on the "Milan Miracle" a shocking upset in the Indiana High School Basketball State Finals. Today Hinkle Fieldhouse annually hosts the State Finals and was the sight of the famous recent championship which featured Greg Oden and Mike Connelly.
Besides being the home for the Butler Bulldogs, Hinkle Fieldhouse has accommodated numerous other events including speeches by several U.S. presidents, the first ever USSR-USA basketball game, All-Star basketball games for the NBA and ABA, tennis matches of both Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer and the 1987 Pan American Games. A volleyball match which drew 15,000 fans to Hinkle was the highest attended volleyball match ever held in the United States.
Overall Hinkle Fieldhouse has all the key factors to make it one of sport's most iconic buildings: the history, the cozy intimate atmosphere and famous sporting events that have taken place on its grounds.
9. Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium: The Venue of Legends. Not as well known inside the United States (although many Americans may remember it as the host of the Broncos 49ers contest in London), Wembley Stadium is one of the world's most recognizable sporting fixtures. Recently rebuilt on the site of the 1923 Wembley Stadium, the new stadium is home to England's National Soccer Team as well as an assortment of other soccer matches such as the final of the UEFA Cup Championship match between Manchester United and Barcelona which will be played this Saturday night.
Like Madison Square Garden, Wembley Stadium has hosted hundreds of concerts with practically ever big name signer or group having played there.
While not host to a specific club team (a major detrimental factor), Wembley is by far England's and Europe's largest and most recognizable stadium. A modern architectural wonder, Wembley Stadium can hold roughly 90,000 fans and given its prime London location, the site should figure prominently into the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
If a stadium must be tied to a team, then Manchester United's Old Trafford Stadium is the best and most famous Premiership club team venue in England.
8. Wrigley Field
Ahh the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
Built in 1914 Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark in baseball to Fenway Park. With a current capacity of only 41,160 it is also the 10th smallest stadium providing fans for an intimate close-to-the-field experience.
Wrigley is famous for a few characteristics that add to its strong ties to its rich history including its ivy covered brick outfield wall, its iconic red marquee sign outside the main entrance (pictured above) and the hand turned scoreboard in the outfield.
Wrigley is a must visit for any diehard baseball fan, and while the Cubs are known more for their championship drought, Wrigley has played host to several important and memorable games over the years.
A sure sign that a stadium is deserving of its iconic status is references in popular culture, a category Wrigley is well versed in. From TV to movies to even late night stand up, Wrigley is one of the most often mentioned/used stadiums and has been featured in The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Rookie of the Year, A League of Their Own, The Simpsons and a host of other TV series.
7. Michigan Stadium "The Big House"
They don't call Michigan Stadium the "Big House" for nothing. Completed in 1927, the original capacity for the stadium was 72,000 people. Today it has ballooned to an official capacity of 109,901 although game attendances often exceed 111,000.
With those attendance records, Michigan Stadium is the largest stadium in the United Sates and the third largest stadium in the world. What is more unbelievable is that every home game since 1975 has drawn at least 100,000 people which is an ongoing streak of more than 200 contests. Considering that the size of Ann Arbor is only 114,000 thousand people, it makes the streak all the more amazing.
Recent struggles aside, there is good reason for Michigan fans to flock to the stadium as U of M has been one of the preeminent football powerhouses of the past century. ESPN has also rated the Michigan Ohio State football rivalry to be the best in sports.
6. The Championships of Wimbledon
The Championships of Wimbledon held at the all England club is the oldest continuous major annual sporting event in the world. Steeped in tradition, Wimbledon counts many time-honored rituals among its customs such as a strict 'all whites' dress code for competitors and the muave and forest green trimmings for the umpires, the eating of England's famous summertime treat strawberries and cream, and Royal patronage.
Another tradition is the use of Miss (or Mrs.) on the scoreboard for women's matches. Mr., however is only used for players of amateur status.
The pomp and circumstance of the All England club make it one of the most glamorous sporting events in the world. Nike played upon such pageantry designing a white gold embroidered pant suit complete with a blazer and vest for Roger Federer to wear onto the court.
Definitely outclassing the French Open (as well as the US and Australian Opens) in terms of flair and ceremonial grandeur, Wimbledon ranks behind its fellow European Grand Slam for three reasons.
For one, oddly enough the French Open attracts a wider broadcasting audience.
Secondly, Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam played on grass, a surface which makes for quicker play and shorter less developed points.
Finally, the third and most devastating reason is the weather. The incessant England rain can put a damper on the fan's overall experience as long rain delays, chilly if not bloody cold weather and constant starting and stopping can make it difficult for the tournament to develop a real comfortable rhythm.
Oh and the unbearable prices don't help. Strawberries and cream goes for eight pounds!
5. Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, often known colloquially as The Garden is also often nicknamed "The World's Most Famous Arena."
Most famously known for being the home of the New York Knicks, the arena is the world's most used and rented stadium and recognized for its numerous other events that it has hosted as well.
Other than the Knicks, the Garden is the permanent home for the NY Rangers, The St. John Red Storm, the New York Liberty and is the annual host of several college basketball tournaments including the Big East Championships.
Besides sports, the Garden has been host to business meetings (strange) political conventions, graduation speeches, the NFL draft for many years and numerous concerts. President Kennedy's birthday celebration also took place in the Garden during which Marilyn Manson famously serenaded him.
The one event the Garden is probably most known for, if you can pick just one, is the boxing matchup between heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and Mohammed Ali which was dubbed "Fight of the Century."
4. Cameron Indoor Stadium
There is a lore about Cameron Indoor Stadium that is unmatched anywhere else. Maybe its the incredibly intimate feel with the fans literally feet from the players. Or maybe it's the fact that Duke has been arguably the best college basketball program in the country over the past two decades. Or possibly it's a nostalgia for Dickie V's voice ringing out through the rafters as Duke and UNC—one of the best rivalries in all of sports—battle for supremacy of the ACC. Whatever it is, games in Cameron Indoor Stadium are extra special.
Sports Illustrated ranked it fourth among the Top 20 sporting venues of the 20th century and I agree. Sited as reasons for such a ranking were the diehard fans known as the Cameron Crazies who camp out in "Krzyzewskiville" for tickets, the home court advantage it produces—Duke is 277-23 (.923) in its last 300 hundred home games, and lastly the difficulty of playing at Cameron as air conditioning was not used prior to the 2002-2003 season.
While opposing fans hate Cameron Stadium and the Dukies, it's hard not to admire the passion and basketball culture that Duke has created and that Cameron Indoor has enhanced, especially in an age of massive impersonal domed stadiums (take that UNC)
3. Le Stade De Roland Garros
The French Open at Roland Garros is one of the most prestigious events in tennis (and all of sports) and one of four major Grand Slam tournaments. It is the only one of the Grand Slams played on clay and because of the slow playing surface and final set without a tiebreak, the French Open is considered to be the most physically demanding tennis tournament in the world.
Originally started as a national French tournament in 1891, Roland Garros was open to all amateurs from all countries in 1925. Since that time, the French crowds have witnessed Men and Women singles champions from 24 different countries.
Besides singles, the tournament also hosts doubles, mixed doubles, junior and wheelchair competitions.
Due to its prestige, the unique and iconic red clay surface and its heavy concentration of international players, The French Open has one of the widest and most international viewership audiences of all regular and annual sporting events.
2. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is about Iconic as they get. Built in 1909 with an official seating capacity of more than 257,000 and infield seating that increases capacity to approximately 400,000 people, the Speedway is the largest and highest-capacity sporting facility in the entire world.
It is also host to three of racing's most premiere events, Indy Car's the Indy 500, Nascar's Brickyard 400 and for a while the US F-1Grand Prix.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to racing and no other track and few other sporting events are as well known and revered worldwide.
When not used for racing, the Speedway also boasts an 18-hole championship golf course in the infield that has been used for local and regional competitions as well.
1. Fenway Park
Fenway Park has been home to the Boston Red Sox since it opened in 1912. Its 99 year history makes it the oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use. It is also known as one of the two "classic" baseball parks joining Wrigley Field in that distinction.
Given its history and the winning tradition of the Red Sox, Fenway is widely considered to be one of the best known sporting venues and stadiums in the entire world. After Comiskey Park was torn down in 1991, Fenway Park has assumed the title as the oldest sports venue in America.
What makes Fenway special however is not just its history or its convenient location in the heart of downtown Boston. It's the die hard loyal fans (like the guy who willed himself to live until the Sox finally won a championship in 04 and then died moments later), whose passion for baseball is unmatched. Fenway Park became a symbol of the franchise's enduring quest to win a championship that finally came true in 2004.
One sense of just how loyal Sox fans are to Fenway; back in 1999, the CEO of the club John Harrington proposed rebuilding Fenway while keeping some of its famous attributes including the Green Monster (the name for the wall in left field). The plan was met with such resistance that it was ultimately dropped and Fenway continues in its mostly original form.
While the Yankees and their fans fans might despise the franchise even they know there is no better place to play or watch a game then Fenway.
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