The World Cup: the planet's finest gladiators (footballers) gathering to do battle (play football) inside purpose-built theatres of duel (stadiums).
And the stadiums are often truly jaw-dropping. Humans have indeed grown rather proficient at designing and building stunning sporting arenas and here we thought we'd showcase our global favourites - not just from the world of football. Hopefully there's some interesting trivia thrown into the mix, too. Beautiful and clever...
(Images: Rex unless stated)
15. AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas, USA)
Home to the Dallas Cowboys, the stadium is the fourth biggest in the NFL and is s the largest column-free room in the world. We love the way it's still, technically, a room. The retractable glass end-zone doors, at 180 feet wide and 120 feet high, are the largest operable glass doors in the world. It used to have the biggest jumbotron, too, but neighbours the Houston Texans properly smashed that record. Check it out.
(Image: Creative Commons)
14. Sapporo Dome (Sapporo, Japan)
Capacity: Sport dependent but 41,484 for football
The home field of the baseball team Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (punchy name) and the football club Consadole Sapporo, the Dome is capable of switching between two entirely different surfaces. Baseball games are played on an artificial turf field, while football games are held on a grass pitch that slides into and out of the stadium as needed.
13. Scotiabank Saddledome (Calgary, Canada)
It's all in the shape. The saddle-style architecture plays on Calgary's western heritage, which includes the world famous annual rodeo. The arena's designers Graham McCourt Architects shaped the concrete roof as an inverse hyperbolic paraboloid so its weight would be supported without internal pylons that would block fans' views. The Saddledome is one of the oldest arenas in the NHL (home to the Calgary Flames), and speculation is rife that it is due to be replaced.
12. National Aquatics Center (Beijing, China)
Known as "The Water Cube," this was the site of Michael Phelps's unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals in 2008. Sydney-based firm PTW Architects won an online vote by the Chinese public to build it. Its square form was created in order to envoke a "yin and yang of the Beijing Olympics" when looked at next to the neighbouring (and circular) National Stadium. The building's popularity has spawned many copycat structures throughout China - there's even a one-to-one copy of the facade near the ferry terminal in Macau.
11. Panathenaic Stadium (Athens, Greece)
The modern Olympics started here in this marble U-shaped stadium, modelled on the one that was built for the 330BC Panathenian games. The original was lost and buried until excavations in the 1830s uncovered traces of the ancient marble. It was rebuilt in time for the opening ceremony of the 1896 games. US triple jumper James Connolly won the first Olympic medal in more than 1,500 years here. Rather wonderfully it's open to joggers from 7.30am to 9am daily.
(Image: Creative Commons)
10. The Float (Marina Bay, Singapore)
The world's largest floating stage, it is made entirely of steel and measures 120 metres long and 83 metres wide. The platform can bear up to 1,070 tonnes, equivalent to the total weight of 9,000 people, 200 tonnes of stage props and three 30-tonne military vehicles. In case you wanted to invade a country from there.
(Flickr Creative Commons: David Jones)
9. Allianz Arena (Munich, Germany)
Home to Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich football clubs, it was opened in 2005 and was the first in the world capable of changing colour depending on which team is playing. The stadium has been nicknamed "Schlauchboot" (inflatable boat) and the museum of Bayern Munich, is located inside the Allianz Arena.
8. Olympiastadion (Munich, Germany)
The stadium was built as the main venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics and has also hosted the 1974 World Cup Final and the Euro '88 Final. It hosted the European Cup Finals of 1979, 1993 and 1997. The stadium was built by Bilfinger Berger between 1968 to 1972 in a pit made by bombs dropped on Munich during World War II. The sweeping and transparent canopy was to symbolise a new, democratic and optimistic Germany. It's badass.
7. National Stadium (Beijing, China)
The brainchild of Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron the design, which originated from the study of Chinese ceramics, implemented steel beams in order to hide supports for the retractable roof; giving the stadium the appearance of a bird's nest. The Beijing Guo’an football club was scheduled to play at the stadium, but later backed out fearing the humiliation of using an 80,000 seat venue for their 10,000 regular fans. Depressingly, an onsite shopping mall and hotel are planned to bring people back to its bosom.
6. Ericsson Globe (Stockholm, Sweden)
Looking like the Truman show dome, it's the national indoor arena of Sweden and is currently the largest hemispherical building in the world. It has a diameter of 110 metres and an inner height of 85 metres. The volume of the building is 605,000 cubic metres. The Globe is primarily used for ice hockey, and is the former home of AIK, Djurgårdens IF, and Hammarby IF, but it has hosted a cheeky Eurovision back in 2000.
(Flickr Commons: Kjell Eson)
5. Olympiastadion (Berlin, Germany)
Scene of the 1936 Olympics, Hitler really went to town on the propaganda opportunity when he had this stone arena built. The stadium was packed with 110,000 spectators when Jesse Owens won gold, his name remains emblazoned on a winners board inside. It was one of the few buildings that survived not just in a recognisable form, but almost untouched after the Second World War. The stadium has since gone through two major upgrades and is the home of Hertha BSC, football club.
National Stadium (Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
4. Capacity: 55,000
Home to most of the Taiwan national team's football matches the stadium's spiral shape evokes dragon-like imagery. It is the first stadium in the world to provide power using solar energy technology. The panels covering the external face of the stadium are able to generate almost 100% of the power required for its own operation.
(Photo: Kaohsiung City Government)
3. Soccer City (Johannesburg, South Africa)
The largest stadium on the African continent it is aptly located on the site of an old gold mine, the historic source of Johannesburg's wealth. Previously known as the FNB Stadium, its major facelift for the World Cup 2010 was inspired by traditional African pottery. At night, a ring of lights running round the bottom light up to simulate a fire under this giant football 'pot'.
2. Wembley (London, England)
The second largest stadium in Europe, it was designed by HOK Sport and Foster and Partners. It includes a partially retractable roof and a 134-metre-high arch. The stadium has a circumference of 1 km and encloses 4,000,000 m³ inside its walls and under its roof. That's is the equivalent of 25,000 double-decker buses or 7 billion pints of milk. Here to help.
1. Camp Nou (Barcelona, Spain)
It's the biggest stadium in Europe and, having been built in the 1950s, boasts a retro kind of cool that new stadiums will never match. Home to FC Barcelona plans are afoot for Camp Nou to be enclosed in translucent panels in the colours of the team. Architectural genius Norman Foster (The Gherkin, Wembley) is behind it, but judging by these artist impressions, it would look just like those new stadiums it currently trumps. Please don't do it.