10 of the world's best sports venues

10 of the world's best sports venues

The stadiums, clubs and courses that make the actual sport look like a sideshow

The Olympics is still an entire spring season away, so instead we're going to hijack the IAAF World Indoor Championships (that's athletics for any sports dodos out there) as our peg for this list.

They start today, so what better way to kick off three days of sprained hamstrings and frustrating false starts than with a rundown of 10 fantastic sports stadiums?

Clearly there are many more great sports venues than these 10, so before any fans of Soccer City or others get their vuvuzelas in a twist, you can have your moment in the comments box below. 

1. Yankee Stadium, New York, United States

Yankee Stadium Concentrated Americana. Just add beer.

The new Yankee Stadium is the third most expensive stadium ever built (US$1.5 billion), after Wembley Stadium in London and the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. 

It's been open for only two years, and is home to the most famous team in American sport, but also a legion of vociferous, outspoken, frequently funny fans who are just as happy to cheer a streaker as they are to jeer a poor play.

In its first season it hosted a World Series clinching game as the Yanks beat the Philadelphia Phillies four games to two. 

Typical fan: Large guy with beer gut clutching giant hotdog in one hand and cup of beer in the other, screaming insults at the Red Sox ... even when the Sox aren't in town.

Yankee Stadium, E.161st Street and River Avenue, Bronx, N.Y., United States; +1 718 293 4300; newyork.yankees.mlb.com

2. Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne Cricket Ground Every third man's most hated away game.

The biggest cricket venue in the world, the biggest stadium of any kind in Australia and also the oldest of the stadiums on our list.

Built in 1853, with the first game of cricket played on September 30, 1854, up to 130,000 people could once be crammed in -- however, renovations and safety regulations have since restricted capacity to the current 100,000.

The MCG, or The G as locals call it, is the symbolic heart of sport in the country. 

For cricket fans there's no better place to be, cold drink in hand, watching Australia and England battle out an Ashes Test when the atmosphere would give a chainsaw a hard time, especially in the infamous Bay 13, one of the most disorderly spectator areas in sport.

In a One-Day International in the late 1990s, behavior in Bay 13 was so bad that Shane Warne had to enter the ground from his dressing rooms and tell the crowd to settle down at the request of opposing England captain Alec Stewart.

Typical fan: Large man with cans of Fosters in his hat, shouting obscenities at both sides' players.

Melbourne Cricket Ground, Brunton Avenue, Melbourne, Australia; +61 3 9657 8888; www.mcg.org.au

3. Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Camp Nou The action is usually as colorful as the fans.
Feel free to make your case Real Madrid fans. Sure, we can grant Santiago Bernabeu elite status among world stadiums, but Camp Nou edges it by a hair.

Overall, the complex is more impressively grandiose and the fans rowdier. And it's home to the world's best soccer team. No other soccer stadium in Europe can compete with the capacity crowds of Camp Nou.

At 100,000 strong, the homeside can rely on an incessant atmosphere that intimidates like no other, a quality current players Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi appreciate.

At times it can get extremely heated, both on and off the pitch.

In August 2011, during a Spanish Supercopa match against arch rivals Real Madrid, there was an on-pitch brawl between not only the players, but Real manager José Mourinho and Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova.

Typical fan: Sweaty Catalan waving scarf excitedly and chanting nonstop.

Camp Nou, Avinguda Aristides Maillol, Barcelona, Spain; +34 93 496 36 08; www.fcbarcelona.com

4. Rungrado May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea

Rungrado May Day StadiumSquint, and you may be able to spot a smile somewhere in there.
The monumental Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, makes our list because it has the largest seating capacity of any sports stadium in the world and the largest capacity of any non-motorsport venue in the world.

Plus it's in North Korea, which makes it an adventure just to get there.

Built in 1989 for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, and seating a staggering 150,000 people, it now mostly hosts football matches and athletic events.

Resembling a magnolia blossom, or, some say, a parachute, it has 16 arches arranged in a ring. In 1995, an incredible 190,000 people crammed in for a professional wrestling event. One to tick off if you're a real sports stadium fanatic.

However, don't come expecting to see North Koreans breaking out of their oppressively intact shells -- there's absolutely no atmosphere whatsoever in this stadium, even when packed full of people.

Typical fan: Any one of more than 24 million North Koreans happy to get a taste of real life. 

The only contact information North Korea makes available is Rungrado May Day Stadium, Pyongyang, North Korea.

5. Wimbledon, London, England

cliff richard at wimbledonThe retractable roof ensures there will be no repeat of the 1996 "Cliff Richard episode."

It may be the center of the tennis world for only two weeks of the year (or slightly longer depending on the British weather) but there's no tennis venue like Wimbledon.

Center Court becomes a circus of oohs and aahs. Strawberries drip with cream. Henman Hill burns with suspense. Sir Cliff Richard sings in the rain.

And of course Andy Murray, or whoever the favored British "star" is this year, loses in the semi-finals yet again.

Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and now Rafael Nadal have shone here. The All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon has it all. 

Typical fan: English rose with posh accent, glass of Pimm's and bedroom completely wallpapered with photos of Andy Murray, or a topless Rafael Nadal.

Wimbledon, Church Road, Wimbledon, London, England; +44 20 8944 1066; www.wimbledon.com

6. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana, United States

Indianapolis How two wheels can mesmerize 257,000 people.
Beyond doubt the biggest sporting venue in the world, with a permanent seating capacity of more than 257,000, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has everything for motor sports fans .

With infield seating, the Indy 500, the annual 800-mile race held over Memorial Day weekend, billed as "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing," can raise crowd numbers to 400,000.

There are more big races: the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. The Red Bull Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix. Indianapolis even hosted the U.S. Formula One GP from 2000-2007.

Beer, hot dogs, the smell of motor oil, the roar of highly tuned engines and the chance of a fatal accident. This is mecca for motor sports fans.

Typical fan: Loud American, male or female, wearing baseball cap and clutching mobile phone camera in hand, waiting to shoot footage of the first mishap to post on YouTube.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 4790 W. 16th St., Indianapolis, Ind., United States; +1 317 492 8500; www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com

7. Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico

Azteca stadium fans And this is just during the halftime "tacos at half price" announcement.
The Azteca Stadium, located in Mexico City, is a football (soccer) stadium with an official capacity of 114,465 people. It makes our list because it's the home of the Mexico national team and the only stadium ever to host two World Cup final matches, in 1970 and 1986.

It also hosted football matches in the 1968 Olympics. In the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and England, Diego Maradona scored both the "Hand of God" goal and the "Goal of the Century."

The stadium also hosted the "Game of the Century," when Italy defeated West Germany 4-3 in extra time in one of the 1970 semifinals. So Estadio Azteca brings out the best and the worst in the world's best football players. The buzz here, especially when Mexico are playing, is electric.

Typical fan: Highly emotional Mexican, probably wearing green or Mexican national colors.

Estadio Azteca, Santa Ursula, Mexico City, Mexico; +52 55 5487 3205; www.esmas.com

8. Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, United States

Augusta National Golf Club One of the few courses more beautiful than Colin Montgomerie's swing.
The Old Course at St. Andrews may be the home of golf, but Augusta National in Georgia is golf heaven.

Created in 1933 by the legendary Bobby Jones, this incredible golf course is home every April to the U.S. Masters, the first golf Major tournament of the year.

The hallowed fairways that run through stands of huge, stately trees make it golf's greatest venue. Winners here include all of golf's greats, from Ben Hogan through Palmer, Nicklaus and Player to Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.

Spectators are called "patrons" and can be ejected from the venue if caught running anywhere on the course.

Indeed, organizers are so paranoid about maintaining the club's sedate image that legendary CBS commentator Gary McCord was banned for life for announcing on air that the greens were so fast they must have been "bikini-waxed."

Tickets to the tournament are like gold dust, but several golf tour operators now run packages to the Masters that include tournament tickets. 

Typical fan: Carries portable seat and picnic hamper, arrives at first light, proceeds to favorite place on course and sits there all day waiting for a glimpse of Tiger.

Augusta National Golf Club, 2604 Washington Road, Augusta, Ga., United States; +1 706 667 6000; www.augusta.com

9. Circuit de Monaco, Monaco

Monte Carlo Monaco The one country where it's bad form not to speed in the streets.
There are dozens of Formula One Grand Prix circuits around the world, but there's nothing like Monaco. This isn't a circuit, this is a Grand Prix effectively taking place on the streets of a whole country.

Monaco is a tiny city state on the French Riviera and the GP is held on a narrow course with many elevation changes and tight corners, as well as a tunnel, making it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One.

In spite of the relatively low average speeds, it's a dangerous place to race and is usually won by the very best drivers. The list of winners since the first GP in 1929 reads like a who's who of F1 legends -- Ayrton Senna (six times), Alain Prost (four), Michael Schumacher (five), Fernando Alonso (twice) and Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel once each.

Monaco is a tax haven and has been described as "an exceptional location of glamour and prestige" with mega-yachts in the harbor providing the backdrop to the speeding cars. It's celebrity heaven, especially at GP time.

Typical fan: Billionaire watching action from private yacht in harbor or multi-million dollar apartment overlooking track, Champagne in one hand, supermodel in the other.

Monaco, 2 Boulevard Rainier III, Monaco; +377 93 25 47 85; www.monaco-grand-prix.com

10. Wembley Stadium, London, England

Wembley Stadium The retractable roof is actually meant to soundproof the locals from the hooligan howls inside.
Or New Wembley, to be precise.

Althought the most expensive stadium ever built (US$1.26 billion) is not the same incarnation as the original, it nonetheless has the same spirit and is home to the best events in the United Kingdom, Europe and perhaps the world.

At 90,000 capacity, it seats more people under one retractable roof than anywhere in the world, hosts the final of the world's oldest football tournament, the FA Cup (which started in 1871), is the English national football team's home ground, hosts major rugby tournaments and regular season NFL games and will be the centerpiece of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Overall, the world's preeminent showcase stadium for sport.

Typical fan: Insane and fairly drunk English football supporter who really believes the English team will one day win another World Cup.

Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London, England; +44 844 980 8001; www.wembleystadium.com


Tony Smart is a lifelong golf fanatic and journalist who's been lucky enough to play golf all over the world. He has written for a wide variety of magazines including Golf Digest Ireland, Golf World, Golf Monthly, Golf International, The Robb Report, Asian Golf Monthly, Golf Vacations and The Peak.

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