A quick glance at some ancient stadiums

This morning I found this awesome blog post 12 World’s weirdest stadium, check it out. Many of them have stunning backgrounds, however I have to nominate the Osaka Stadium in Japan and the gravity-not-needed field in Ukraine as the winners.

You have to actually see the pictures in above blog article to understand what I mean. The Ukraine field was totally awesome, it’s built in a slope! Seems like Ukrainian players find the formula of anti-gravity. The Osaka Stadium had people’s housing and parking lot in the middle of the stadium, still with the cascading audience stands! Imagine you are being watched as you do your normal daily life. Imagine you went out from your house and the audience seats are full. This reminded me of Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show.

This inspired me to post up some of stadium photos I took during my traveling. The ancient stadiums. They are probably not weird like the stadiums in that post, but they were the most important stadiums of some of the ancient civilizations in their time.

The Ancient Olympia Stadium, Greece

This stadium was where the ancient Olympic Games were celebrated every 4 years in honor of Zeus until 393 AD, where representatives of various city states of the ancient Greek participating in various athletic competitions. It was a part of Altis sanctuary complex, located in Olympia, honoring Zeus, Hera and other gods of the Greek mythology. In this complex as well, the gold and ivory statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonder of ancient world, once stood.

Entrance to ancient Olympic games stadium

The entrance to the ancient Olympic Games stadium

Ancient Olympic games stadium

The ancient Olympic Games stadium at Olympia. The stone platform in the right was called exedra and it was where the judges sat.

The Delphi Stadium, Greece

This stadium was to host the ancient Pythian/Delphi Games, a similar event to the ancient Olympic Games, but honoring the god Apollo instead. This game was celebrated every 4 years as well, 2 years before/after the ancient Olympic Games celebrated. This stadium was a part of the Delphi sanctuary, where the famous Priestess of the Oracle of Delphi gave the prophecies to the world, as guided by Apollo.

Priestess of Delphi, painting by John Collier (1891)

Priestess of Delphi, painting by John Collier (1891). Public domain.

This sanctuary complex is situated in a stunning, but crumbly, rocky mountain setting. It experienced many rises and falls due to this rocky setting. This rock mountains were (and still are) fragile, and rock fall very often happen, and I’ll tell you, those rock chunks could be meters big! Especially in the event of earthquakes, the sanctuary was really prone to destruction, and it actually happened several times. Each time, it was rebuild extravagantly again, until at some point this site was not used anymore.


The ruin site of Delphi. The pillars (right, low) are from the Temple of Apollo. Slightly above to the left, the large half-circular cascading stone arrangement is the theatre. The Delphi stadium is above it, which is difficult to see because of the angle of the shot. Click on the picture for a better view.

Actually, around the time of our visit, there were some rock falls as well. It was way too dangerous for visitors to go too near to the rock wall. The way to the famous ruins of the stadium, the theatre, and the temple of Apollo were closed. So here I only took the picture of the site from far. Unfortunately because it’s uphill and we took picture from down the valley, it was not possible to get a shot of the flat stadium (unless if it was built in a slopy surface the same way as the Ukrainian one!)

Delphi Stadium by David Monniaux

Delphi Stadium. 177 x 26 m. Photo courtesy of David Monniaux (2004)

Chichen Itza’s Great Ball Court, Mexico

Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza

Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza (not chicken pizza) was the site complex where the Mayan’s Pyramid Temple of Kukulkan (Quetzalquatl) stands to date. Close to the temple, the ruin of the 166 x 68 m Great Ball Court exists.

Chichen Itza Great Ball Court

The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza

The ball game they were playing here is not played anymore, in fact archaeologists haven’t reached agreement yet how exactly the game was played. The goals were not located in the end of the long ends of the field just like many ball games nowadays, instead the goals were a couple of tiny loops of stone jutting out high up on the centre of 12 m walls that covered the long side of the field. Confused? See the picture below. It looked so tough to make a goal, and our guide told us that the game might took days to finish. According to the reliefs depicted on some of the walls, this event was involving decapitation of players head!

Chichen Itza Great Ball Court Wall

The wall of the long side of the Great Ball Court. Spectators watched from above. Can you spot the circle stone of the goal in the centre up of the wall?

Chichen Itza Great Ball Court Goal Stone Loop

Zoom in the goal stone loop. The wall is 12 m high.

I think that’s all of our so-far-visited ancient stadiums. I hope you enjoy it!

Where & when:
1. The ancient Olympia Stadium, Altis, Olympia, Greece, 27 September 2009.
2. The Delphi Stadium, Delphi, Greece, 10-11 October 2009.
3. The Great Ball Court of Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico, 26 December 2008.

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4 Responses to “A quick glance at some ancient stadiums”

  1. Ashley
    4 March 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I really like that article…the stadium in Osaka looks so strange! hahaha.

    • Dina
      4 March 2010 at 3:36 pm #

      Hahaha, I know! It seems like the developer was not patient enough to wait until the stadium is taken down. I like to imagine the audience seats are full with people watching what you are doing at home, must be weird..

  2. Philip Manzer
    8 March 2010 at 7:01 am #

    very good, thankss

  3. Bill James
    22 July 2011 at 7:42 am #

    I never know that there are several ancient stadiums in Greece. I was been here and stayed here for almost 1 month but I only heard about the stadium of Delphi. And I already took a visit here with my friend who lives in Greece now! It is perched on the hill, a short climb above the temple of Apollo and the theater. The place is so old but still beautiful. I don’t know what the story behind the stadium of Delphi but I think it is something historical about Greece. If I got a chance to visit Greece again I will surely ask my friend to take me here!

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