PGE NATIONAL STADIUM HISTORY
The PGE Narodowy or National Stadium is a retractable roof football stadium located near the center of Warsaw, Poland. Are you impressed how big, beautiful and modern the National Stadium in Warsaw is? Well, it wasn’t always like this. The structure has a very interesting history that we want to share with you!
The 10th Anniversary Stadium, whose full name was the Stadium of the Decade of the July Manifesto and the official abbreviation The X-anniversary Stadium was established in Warsaw’s huge area in Praga Południe and was opened on the 10th anniversary of july manifesto. (It was a political manifesto of the Polish Committee of National Liberation – soviet administration which operated in opposition to the official London-based Polish government.)
The concept of building the building appeared in the early 1950s. In 1953, the Association of Polish Architects organized a competition for the project of the “Olympic stadium” for Warsaw. The competition for the stadium project was won by a team of architects led by Professor Jerzy Hryniewiecki.
The area where the stadium stood was in the period after 1st world war part of the Praga harbor on the Vistula river. In addition in those times the area of the future stadium was covered by a few suburban wooden buildings.
In August 1954, works were started to allow the construction of the stadium and on the 22nd of July 1955 (11th anniversary of the July Manifesto) the stadium was opened. The ruins of the destroyed Warsaw were used to make the crown of the building together with the stands foundations. One of the factors that influenced the speed of work was the fact that Warsaw was granted the organization of the 5th World Youth and Student Festival in 1955 and the stadium was planned to be used for this purpose.
The stadium was an Olympic-type venue. From the very beginning, the arena had a full-size football pitch and an 8-track athletic track with a length of 400 meters. The outdoor stands with fixed wooden benches had the capacity of 71,008 people. The stadium until its closure did not have any artificial lighting.
In the surroundings of the stadium there was a car park for 900 vehicles, a training ground, a small training hall and a holiday park. The stadium was connected to a close bus station and a railway station opened especially for the transport of visitors.
The entrance to the stadium from the side of Poniatowski bridge was decorated with the sculpture of Adam Roman running in the relay and the nearby flower lawn with the Olympic symbol.
The facility had its best time in the 1960s and 1970s when the most important sports events in the country took place there, including inter-state meetings of the Polish football team, the Polish Cup football finals, the Warsaw Derby, athletic inter-state matches or the finals of the Peace Race. The X-anniversary stadium was also used for cultural and in that time more often for propaganda purposes for socialists. There were big concerts organized, local newspapers festivities, a harvest festival and celebrations of the most important anniversaries for the authorities of the socialist party in Poland as you could gather masses in one place and show the power.
On September 8, 1968, the most tragic event in the history of the object took place. Polish army soldier – Ryszard Siwiec from Przemyśl, protesting against the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops in Czechoslovakia, made a self-immolation ceremony in the presence of the soviet leaders, diplomats and 100,000 spectators during the national harvest festival at the 10th Anniversary Stadium. He died after 4 days in the Prague Hospital.
Even though his act was captured on a picture with camera, Polish press succeeded not to mention this incident, which was approved by the government. Siwiec prepared this plan by himself, only a few people realized what he wanted to achieve with his fatal sacrifice. His act remained forgotten until the very fall of communism, when it was first mentioned in a documentary movie by Polish filmmaker Maciej Drygas. Because of that he has been awarded a number of Slovak, Polish and Czech honors and decorations.
Since 1983, the building started to get old and destroyed by the weather and many public events, and possibility of its renovation or complete reconstruction was considered unprofitable by the authorities. That’s why in 1983, because of technical problems, the stadium was abandoned.
Since 1989, it has been leased by the city to the “Damis” company, through which it was used for commercial purposes. At that time, the “Europa Fair” was created on his crown, which functioned until September 30, 2007 and was Europe’s largest opened air market with over 5000 traders. Europa Fair (PL: Jarmark Europa) was a big bazaar selling all kind of cheap clothing, electronics, furniture – if you wanted you could buy anything there. Most of the sellers were Vietnamese, Chinese and Ukrainian. Police said the Europe market was the main selling point for black market items in Poland. According to police records between years 1995 and 2001 over 25,000 traders were prosecuted, and more than 10 million illegal CDs and video tapes were confiscated.
The last big event organized at the Stadium of the decade was the final of the Red Bull X-Fighters series. After it, the Minister of Sport and Tourism at that time – Mirosław Drzewiecki officially closed the Stadium with the words “It’s time to write a new stadium history”. It was September 6th, 2008.
In place of the 10th Anniversary Stadium, the National Sports Center has been established since 2007, and the National Stadium was built on the grounds of the previous stadium keeping the former foundations. New stadium has polish flag colors and has capacity of 58 145 people. Construction of it was finished in 2011, and it was hosting the Euro’s 2012 opening football game.