Celebrating 100 Years of Wembley Stadium’s Glory

by | Nov 24, 2023 | Explore London

Wembley Stadium, a sacred arena that has borne witness to a myriad of historic moments in the realms of sports and entertainment, is jubilantly marking its centenary year. From the thunderous roar of the crowd resonating through the stands during legendary football clashes to the pulsating energy of iconic concerts, Wembley stands as a silent but profound witness to the pages of history being written. In this blog we explore the journey of Wembley Stadium London, capturing its milestones and the lasting impact it has had on the sports culture, entertainment and communities.

The Early Years

An old photo of Wembley Stadium London.

Wembley Stadium on FA Cup Final day, 23 April 1927. © Historic England Archive. EPW017629.

The story of Wembley Stadium begins in 1923 when it opened its gates to the public. Originally constructed for the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley quickly became the epicenter of football in the United Kingdom. On 28 April 1923, Wembley hosted its first major sporting event, the prestigious FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United, popularly known as The “White Horse Final”. Unbeknownst to onlookers, this moment would catalyse the inception of a century-long legacy.

The Golden Era: 1966 Football World Cup

A photo of England captain Bobby Moore hoisting the 1966 Football World Cup trophy in Wembley Stadium London.

Photo credit: Getty Images

A pivotal juncture in Wembley’s storied history unfolded in 1966 when England clinched the FIFA World Cup on its hallowed home turf. The indelible image of Bobby Moore hoisting the trophy remains etched in the collective memories of football enthusiasts worldwide. Wembley, at that moment, transcended being merely a stadium; it metamorphosed into an enduring symbol of triumph.

Historic Sporting Events

The 1948 Olympic flag still preserved at the current Wembley Stadium. © Simon Inglis. PLA01/07/0013.

Over the years, Wembley has been the stage for numerous historic football matches. From iconic FA Cup finals to dramatic UEFA Champions League showdowns, the stadium has witnessed unforgettable moments that have shaped football narratives. A list of historic games includes 1948 Summer Olympics, 1968 Challenge Cup final, the nail-biting EURO ’96, and 2015 Rugby World Cup among others. Liverpool’s comeback against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final are just a few examples of the drama that unfolded on Wembley’s hallowed turf. The match is widely regarded as one of the greatest Champions League finals of all time, and has since been titled by Liverpool supporters as the “Miracle of Istanbul”.

A Symphony of Memories: When the Stadium Echoed with Musical Greatness

Crowd sat the Live Aid charity concert on 13 July 1985. © LMK / MediaPunch.

Wembley’s versatility radiated beyond the football pitch, extending its allure to the grand stage. The stadium transformed into a mecca for music lovers as it played host to iconic concerts featuring legendary artists such as Queen, Michael Jackson, U2, and Adele. Among these moments, the historic “Live Aid” concert in 1985, featuring spellbinding performances by Queen, David Bowie, and other luminaries, not only raised funds for famine relief but also stands as an enduring cultural milestone.

Arch: The Renaissance of Wembley 

The new Wembley was completed in 2007 with a capacity of 90,000. © Historic England Archive. 24391/008.

In a monumental transformation during the early 2000s, Wembley Stadium London embarked on a journey of renewal, gracefully bidding adieu to the iconic Twin Towers and embracing the sleek and modern Wembley Arch. The Wembley Arch, completed in 2007, stands as a symbol of innovation and modernity. The arch is not just a structural marvel but also a testament to Wembley’s commitment to staying at the forefront of stadium design and technology. Notably, it set the stage for global spectacles, including the illustrious UEFA Champions League Final and the dazzling Olympic football tournament in 2012.

Wembley’s Ripple Effect Beyond the Stadium Gates

Wembley’s impact stretches far beyond the realms of sports and entertainment, acting as a dynamic force for community engagement and development. Findings have consistently shown that Wembley Stadium’s events deliver a major economic boost to the local economy in Brent, Cricklewood, London city and across England as a whole. The 90,000-capacity venue had its busiest year on record with a collective attendance of 2.6 million across 35 major events including the Women’s FA Cup Final, the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Final, six shows by Coldplay and the Tyson Fury v Dillian Whyte World Heavyweight Championship fight.

English Football fans Celebrating their win against Germany at Women’s Euro 2022. Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

In total, the stadium hosted 16 sold-out concerts with more than 1.3 million people attending. It was the most gigs Wembley has hosted in one year. The previous record was 14 concert nights, set in 2019. This phenomenon has not only drawn a substantial number of visitors from the United Kingdom but has also seen a remarkable over 20% of concert and event attendees at Wembley hailing from international destinations staying an average of two nights in hotels nearby. This influx significantly has amplified the impact on the travel and tourism sector, providing a substantial boost to its overall vitality.

As Wembley Stadium London celebrates a century of glory, its legacy stands tall as one of the most iconic venues in the world. From historic football matches to legendary concerts, Wembley has been a witness to moments that have shaped the cultural fabric of the nation and beyond. The stadium’s grandeur, both past, and present, symbolizes the enduring spirit of sportsmanship, entertainment, and community. Wembley Stadium remains not just a venue but a living testament to a century of shared memories, making it an eternal symbol of glory in the heart of the sporting and cultural world.

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