Another post in our Man-cation- Ideas Series
Visiting the Mecca’s of Sport
The definitive seven sacred shrines to sport: Olympia, Monte Carlo, the Old Yankee Stadium, the All England Club, the Roman Coliseum and St. Andrews. The nano-second that you step foot on the grass, pebbles, or tarmac of these hallowed sanctuaries of sport you FEEL the history ooze through your soul.
Does size mater?
Lets take a step back…what makes a sports mecca? Is it size alone? No. Of the 10 largest stadiums in the world, six are home to US college football teams (University of Texas, University of Michigan, Penn State, Tennesse, Ohio State and Alabama.) The largest stadium in the world is the May Day Stadium in North Korea, seating 150,000 people! In selection of our meccas, our first consideration was global recognition and significance.
Ok..lets take a look at each one of the meccas and why they were chosen:
Olympia, Greece is arguably the birthplace of competitive sport. Olympia boast the inspiration for the modern Olympic games. The location saw it’s sports hay day peak from 776 BC to 400AD the longest period of athletic excellence of any location on the planet. Only a decree from the Emperor Theodosius 1st ended the games after he thought they had become a paganfest.
Reaching Olympia is a little involved. It is roughly a 5 hour drive from Athens. The train service from Athens to the are has stopped. So your options are limited. As you can image, there are a number of tour companies that offer bus and overnight accommodation packages out of Athens.
Olympia offers so much more than just sport history. Due to the long history of human inhabitants in the area every stage of Greek Arctuture is on display. We understand that archaeological museum at Olympia is excellent.
The Olympic flame of the modern-day Olympic Games is lit by reflection of sunlight in a parabolic mirror in front of the Temple of Hera and then transported by a torch to the place where the games are held. When the modern Olympics came to Athens in 2004, the men’s and women’s shot put competition was held at the restored Olympia stadium. Wikipedia
Perhaps the most recognizable location on our famed mecca list is of course the Roman Coliseum. The structure was the largest amphitheater built during the Roman age. Construction started around 72 AD. It was the brain child of Emperor Vespasian. Construction was completed in the year 80 AD under the direction of Titus. At its pinnacle of operation, the stadium could hold over 50,000 people. According to legend, each citizen of Rome was granted season tickets and an assigned seat.
The Coliseum’s primary sporting event was produced by the gladiators. Men would take turn killing various wild beasts and each other to the cheers of the wine bibbing throngs. According to historians on occasion the rink was flooded with water and famous sea battles were reenacted. The venue was truly a multi purpose facility; it hosted events including public executions, plays and concerns, as well as religious services! Even today, every Good Friday the Pope leads a throng of “fans” down to the old pitch.
Visiting the Coliseum
As they say…When in Rome! There is so much to see in Rome, with that said, any visitor must make their way to this ancient relic of sport. As you approach the structure, be prepared to be encircled by gladiator garbed goons attempting to solicit a pricy photo session with you. Take the audio tour that gives you a pretty in depth description of the form and function.
St. Andrews the town is located on the east coast of Scotland. There is much to see in this small borough. St. Andrews is home to the third oldest university in the world, the University of St Andrews. (It must drive them crazy to say GO USA!) The location is of course best known as the international home of golf. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded in 1754. The rules of the game for the entire world are determined at a local pub. The Club hosts the annual Open Championship, by far the oldest major in golf.
Visiting St. Andrews
Of all the locations, visiting St. Andrews is perhaps is perhaps the most difficult. The best way to get to St. Andrews is to fly into the Edinburgh airport and then either rent a car or take the Airlink bus to the train station. Most of the St. Andrew facilities are within walking distance of the town center. How do I play the course? First of all, there are loads of courses in the area. Find one that fits your skill set, then swing hard!
A word or warning for you duffers: “If there is one part of the game not right, no matter how you try your hardest to protect it, the Old Course will find it.”
—Peter Thompson, on St. Andrews
I know, I know, you think that the Indiana’s speedway belongs in this hallowed spot. You would be wrong. The Monaco Grand Prix is truly both the most prestigious and important automobile race on the planet. The race was first run in 1929, and was won by William Grover-Williams driving a Bugatti
The race is held on a narrow course laid out in the streets of Monaco, 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 is a dangerous place to race. It is the only Grand Prix that does not adhere to the FIA’s mandated 305km minimum race distance. Wikipedia
The danger of the course, the international intrigue of the location, and the global field in the race makes the Grand Prix a mecca.
Perched on the French Riviera Monaco is truly one of those special places. Nestled near Cannes, Nice and the border of Italy, Monaco is the heart of glamor, beach and luxury. Of course no visit to Monaco would be complete without a visit to the famous Monte Carlo Casino. The entire place is just dripping with luxury. Yes, you still need to wear a jacket to enter the “special” rooms of the casino. Ferraris, Bugattis, and Lamborghinis line the front entry. Amazing yachts line the harbor.
Old Yankee Stadium
“The House that Ruth Built.”
The old Yankee Stadium is located in the storied Bronx section of New York City, New York. It was the home of the New York Yankee Baseball team after its completion in 1923 to 2008 when it was replaced with a new monstrosity. The diamond hosted over 6000 baseball games over its 85 years of service. It has played host to a number of world series games and allstar games. It has also hosted a number of boxing matches and three Papal Masses! On June 21, 1990, a rally was held at Yankee Stadium for Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.
Perhaps the most memorable moment in the venue’s history came on July 4, 1939, designated as “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day”. Gehrig, forced out of action permanently by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and facing his impending death, gave a legendary farewell speech thanking his fans and colleagues for making him “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
A number of college football game were held in the stadium. This included the Notre Dame-Army games. One match up in particular found legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne offering his “win one for the Gipper” speech. The 1946 Army vs. Notre Dame football game at Yankee stadium is regarded as one of the 20th century college football Games of the Century.
The New York Giants of the NFL played their home games at Yankee Stadium from 1956 to 1973. On December 28, 1958, Yankee Stadium hosted the NFL championship game, frequently called “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. The Baltimore Colts tied the Giants, 17–17, on a field goal with seven seconds left. Led by quarterback Johnny Unitas, the Colts won in overtime, 23–17. The game’s dramatic ending is often cited as elevating professional football to one of the United States’ major sports.
Visiting Old Yankee Stadium
You cant. The Stadium has been demolished.
All England Club
Our next to final Mecca is a mouth full: All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is located in Wimbledon, London, England. The storied club hosts the Wimbledon Championship. the Championship is the only tennis major to be held on grass. The club has just shy of 400 members. The patron of the club is H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, and the President is H.R.H. The Duke of Kent. The club was founded in 1868.
The facilities include 20 tournament level courts and 16 other gross courts. The gras can be used May till mid September, at which time a small number of clay and hard courts on premise can be used. For your information, the grass is cut to an exact measurement of 8mm, and is 100% perennial rye grass. Center court the largest, seats roughly 15,000 patrons.
The Club will likely be on full display at the upcoming London Olympics. This is be a great chance to see the venue and the top players in the world on display. Wimbledon has its very own tube stop, so visiting the venue is extremely easy. The Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame and museum are also on premises and are not to be missed.
By now you probably noticed that we only mentioned 6 meccas. You are sooo good! We are leaving the 7th up to you our loyal “1000 Fighters”. So where/what do you nominate? Just leave a comment below and let the fights begin.