Football in Italy:
Football games are one of the few cultural performances that consistently bring together masses of Italians. These matches reach much further than the stadium, as they play large roles in the construction of communities and even, as was the case with Mussolini, political propoganda.
Fans at an A.S. Roma game in the Stadio Olimpico
Italy is the only country in the world with three daily newspapers dedicated completely to sport, the country in which sports shows receive the highest television-audience rating and the country that hosts what was once called the ‘best football championship in the world.’ Italy’s growing obsession with sports, soccer in particular, was brought about, in part, by the Italian regime’s attempt to invent a tradition of shared identity through the use of sports. Part of this attempt included the subsidization of football stadiums that were open to the public and encouraged individuals to participate in physical education and additionally, demonstrated Fascist Italy’s engineering skills and architectural ambitions.
The Foro Mussolini (Foro Italico):
This coincision led to the conception of one of Mussolini’s boldest projects, a new site dedicated to a sports complex that would be called the Foro Mussolini. The Stadio Olimpico, sometimes also referred to as the Stadio dei Cipressi, was to be the centerpiece of this new complex, which was to serve as a modern ‘city’ devoted to sports, physical fitness and youth. The Foro Mussolini was to be a national center for “physical culture dedicated to the formation of new generations of Italians.”
Work on the Foro Mussolini began in 1928, directed by the architect Enrico Del Debbio and the first buildings were opened on November 4, 1932. The Foro Mussolini held numerous buildings, including the Stadio Olimpico, the Stadio dei Marmi, the Academy of Physical Education, a youth hostel, and a complex of facilities including the Olympic tennis stadium. After World War II, the Foro Mussolini was renamed Foro Italico, which it is called to this day.
Image of the current Foro Italico
The Stadio Olimpico in the context of the Foro Mussolini serves as an excellent example of Fascist propoganda. The area’s name, Foro Mussolini, suggested Mussolini’s imperial image, as before only emperors had forums constructed and named in their honor. The forum also contained a number of monuments dedicated to Mussolini. Its’ entrance was dominated by an obelisk fashioned from a three-hundred-ton block of marble and which was over sixty feet tall. The obelisk’s dedication to Mussolini was [made clear by] letters spelling “Mussolini” running vertically down the column and the word DUX inscribed on the base. On the path to the stadiums and other facilities there are mosaics that suggest the similarity between the new Fascist empire of 1936 and the foundation of Rome by Romulus and Remus. Finally, the Fountain of the Sphere contains a sphere weighing forty-two tons whose mass “symbolizes the stregth of facism.”
Obelisk dedicated to Mussolini
Although the original purpose of the stadium was to host a variety of sports, it developed into a venue used by Mussolini for public gatherings, eventually hosting the Fascist Conference in 1938. The Stadio dei Marmi was also frequently used for meetings of party and youth groups, for example, Hitler’s Youth members appeared at the stadium when they visited Rome.
Fascist event at Stadio dei Marmi
The Stadio Olimpico:
Annibale Vitellozzi based the design of the Stadio Olimpico on a series of concentric tiers, coming together to form a huge bowl. The building was designed to look as though it was sunken into the ground so as to fit into its surrounding environment. In this way, the Stadio Olimpico is of an example of landscape intervention, as in its design and construction an emphasis was put upon having the stadium complement and [not disturb] the Tiber River, the Monte Mario Hill and the Ponte Duca d’Aosta.
Stadium before the renovations made for the 1990 World Cup
Following World War II, the stadium underwent renovations to prepare for the 1960 Summer Olympics, during which it was used as the main stadium hosting the opening and closing ceremonies as well as a number of events. After the Olympics, the stadium remained popular and hosted a number of events:
- 1987 World Championships in Athletics
- 1968 and 1980 European Football Championships
- 1977 and 1984 European Cup
- 1996 (and 2009) Champions League Final.
It has also become the home stadium for two teams in the Italian League: A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio.
In 1987, in preparation for the 1990 World Cup, the stadium underwent numerous transformations, including the addition of a roof and the reconstruction of most of the stands. Despite these transformations, the stadium’s design remained true to the original design, retaining its elliptical shape and bowl-like structure. The stadium is now large enough to hold around 82,000 fans.
The inside of the Stadio Olimpico
The Stadio Olimpico has gone through numerous changes since its' construction, but through it all, it has remained a haven for Italian football fans. Although the era of Mussolini reign is long over, one can see remnants of his propoganda throughout Italy, particularly in the current Foro Italico.
Images: click on any image to see its' original page
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Guschwan, Matthew. "Riot in the Curve: Soccer Fans in Twenty-first Century Italy." Soccer & Society 8 (2007): 250-66.
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