History stares at you from every corner in Rome
The Stadio Olimpico, which hosts the Golden Gala on Thursday evening, is a stadium with history. Originally built in the 1930s under the orders of Mussolini, who ruled Italy as prime minister 1922-43 as the Stadio dei Cipressi, it was renamed in 1960 when Rome hosted the summer Olympics.
Italy hosted the 1990 football (soccer) World Cup and the stadium, which was used for the final and other games, was extensively renovated for the event. It was modernised again in 2008 to meet modern security requirements and comfort expectations.
The stadium is controlled by the Italian National Olympic Committee, a body with much more power than USOC or the British Olympic Committee. It is in effect the body of which controls sport in the country. The Stadio Olimpico is the home stadium of the two top Roman professional football clubs, Roma and Lazio. This is quite common in Italy with the two Milan clubs also sharing a stadium, something which would be completely impossible in the UK. It would be unthinkable for Manchester united and Manchester City, for example, to share a stadium, as owning and controlling your own stadium contributes so much to a club’s income.
The age of the stadium may impress some but it pales into insignificance in comparison to Rome’s other “stadium”, which still stands to this day, the Colosseum, built around 70AD and used for the precursor of the Diamond League series, although the programme has changed a bit from the original Roman games with its animal entertainments in the morning session, followed by the executions of criminals around midday, with the afternoon session reserved for gladiatorial combats and recreations of famous battles.
In Rome history stares at you from every corner with so many relics of the heyday of the Roman empire. And then there are the art treasures of the Vatican. The Golden Gala is a magnificent event but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Rome has to offer.
Probably only France among European countries has a greater claim to being the culinary capital of the world. Italy has given the world pasta, pizza, fine wines and so much more.