The World's Top 10 Strangest Stadiums

the new stadium being constructed in Hangzhou, China, which will be the country's largest, exemplifies the trend, serving as an architectural centerpiece to the city's new park district. Hangzhou's new stadium, which resembles the petals of a flower, shows that the days of stripped-down, cookie-cutter stadiums like the Kingdome in Seattle or Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati are gone. While we wait for this latest stadium from China to open (in 2013), we circle the globe to find the most innovative, eclectic and strangest venues open right now.

1. Guangdong Stadium
Location  Guangzhou, China
Background: Guangdong Stadium, located in China's third largest city, opened in 2001 and can seat 80,000 to watch soccer and track and field events. This fall, it will host the 16th Asian Games, a quadrennial event that's the continent's version of summer Olympics. 
2. Sapporo Dome
Location - Sapporo, Japan
Background: The aerodynamic Sapporo Dome has been around for nearly a decade, playing host to matches during the 2002 World Cup. It has since been the home of the soccer team Consadole Sapporo and of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific Baseball League.
3. Soccer City Stadium
Location - Johannesburg, South Africa 
Background: Reimagining the original stadium that was built back in 1986, Soccer City's massive remodel finished just in time for the 2010 World Cup, where the 94,000-seat stadium will host the tournament's opening ceremony, first match and final.
4. Beijing National Aquatics Center
Location - Beijing, China
Background: More commonly known as "The Water Cube," the aquatic center was the site of Michael Phelps's unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals in 2008. 
Why it's unique: Inspired by an image of bubbles clustered together, the Sydney-based firm PTW Architects won an online vote by the Chinese public to build the Aquatics Center. The Water Cube's square form was created in order to play off of the roundness of the Beijing Olympic Stadium located just a few hundred feet away, creating the "yin and yang of the Beijing Olympics," Niemuth says. 100,000 square meters of the thin, UV-resistant ETFE plastic comprise the walls of the arena, held together with a maze of 22,000 steel beams for a breathtaking effect when lit up at night. "That exterior image is on par with the Bilbao Art Museum," Niemuth says.
5. Beijing National Stadium 
Location - Beijing, China
Background: The centerpiece of the Beijing Olympics' stunning stadiums, the "Bird's Nest" showcased an epic opening ceremony and possibly the Games' most electrifying athlete, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. 
Why it's unique: Designed by Pritzker Award-Winning architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, the stadium's shape and latticework form are inspired by Chinese ceramics. The bold originality of the stadium derives from the games' planning committee wanting its stadiums to be statements of China's rise and assertion of national pride. "Rarely does a building become the defining element of the games," Niemuth says.
6. Allianz Arena
Location - Munich, Germany
Background: The home of soccer teams Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich, the 66,000-seat stadium was built for the 2006 World Cup where it hosted the opening match and France's semifinal victory over Portugal. 
Why it's unique: Like the Beijing National Stadium, Allianz was designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, which created a stadium with 2874 inflated ETFE plastic panels, giving it a billowy, cloud-like form. Those translucent panels also allowed the architects to change the appearance of the stadium by adjusting illumination. Allianz "accentuated what we can do with light technology," Niemuth says, "to completely transform these buildings with the color of lighting instead of just hanging a sign on it."
Background: The home of the NHL's Calgary Flames, the Saddledome was completed in 1983 and hosted ice skating and hockey during the 1988 Winter Olympics. 
7. Munich Olympic Park
Location - Munich, Germany
Background: Located just north of the city center, the park hosted the 1972 Olympic Games and its stadium, formerly the home of German Soccer's most successful club, Bayern Munich, is the only one in the world to have hosted the Olympics, the World Cup Final and the European soccer championships final. 
Why it's unique: Combining stainless-steel cable nets, acrylic glass and supports, architect and structural engineer Frei Otto's design of the Munich Olympic Park is a masterwork in tensile architecture. Never before had work like it been done on such a massive scale, and it's a design that continues to permeate Otto's pieces, according to Niemuth.
8. The Float
Location - Marina Bay, Singapore
Background: The Float, which opened in 2007, will be converted to a stage to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010. 
Why it's unique: Built as part of a land reclamation project that began in the 1970s, the Marina Bay development extends Singapore's Central Business District. On the edge of the bay, the Float, a 30,000-seat grandstand faces a nearly 33,000-square-foot steel platform that sits atop 200 pontoons.
9. The Burj Al Arab Hotel Helipad
Location - Dubai, UAE
Background: In preparation for the 2005 Dubai Championships, the Burj Al Arab converted its helipad into a tennis court for Roger Federer and Andre Agassi to hit around. 
Why it's unique: Sure, it may be a bit of a stretch to call this a stadium (there are, for starters, no seats for an audience), but attached to the opulent Burj Al Arab Hotel and suspended 650 feet in the air this one-time tennis court provided one of the most scenic venues in sports. When the helipad isn't a tennis court, guests can use it to shuttle to the airport for about $2700. The hotel is located on a man-made island just off the coast of Dubai and derives its sail-like shape from the region's nautical history. The Burj's "form has set in motion a number of other projects that look very similar," Niemuth says. "When you're in the Middle East you'll see other buildings that were inspired by it."
10. Ericsson Globe
Location - Stockholm, Sweden
Background: Opened in 1989, the 14,000-seat arena serves as the home arena for Sweden's national men's hockey team and for the last three years has been the venue for Sweden's version of American Idol. 
Why it's unique: Not only is the Globe the largest spherical building in the world, it also serves as the sun in the world's largest scale model of the Milky Way. The solar system is at 1:20 million scale with the planets located throughout Stockholm and Sweden. Forty-eight 90-foot curved pillars provide support for the aluminum panels that make up the arenas facade, and they hold up the Globe's cupola, which has 144 skylights.


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