With the Olympic ceremonies just one day away, we decided to take a look back at some of the best Olympic Stadium architecture through the years, and see how this year's stacks up.
Historians trace the origins of the Olympic Stadium back to the 8th Century BC. The 1896 games in Athens marked the return of the ancient event, centered on the Panathinaiko Stadium, which still exists today.
The Olympic Stadium is the centerpiece of any Summer Olympic Games. Traditionally, they are the site of the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field competitions. Given the stupefying economics of holding an Olympics, host cities seek to create architecturally significant multi-use arenas suitable for life after the games have gone (or at least that's what they promise).
Politics aside (well, of course not--the Olympics are politics as well as an advertising mecca, mid-summer entertainment, and oh yes, a test of athletic prowess), we at HuffPost Culture have decided to take a brief look at some of the most striking designs of the modern Olympic era. And yes, this year's made the cut.
Click on through the slideshow to see some notable stadiums through the years.
1. Beijing National Stadium
The Bird's Nest, or more officially the<a href="http://en.beijing2008.cn/99/29/column212042999.shtml" target="_hplink"> National Stadium</a> was designed for the 2008 Beijing games by the Swiss architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron, along with the Chinese architect Li Xinggang. The design was inspired by Chinese ceramics, and the stadium's bowl-like curves and criss-crossing steel beams give the impression of a nest. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/ai-weiwei-tax-challenge_n_1688934.html" target="_hplink">dissident Ai Weiwei</a> was the artistic consultant on the project, an irony, given the Beijing Olympics role in bringing prestige to the Chinese government.
2. Olympic Stadium Munich
<a href="http://www.olympiapark.de/?L=1" target="_hplink">The Olympiastadion</a> was built for the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich by architects Frei Otto, Gunther Behnisch, Hermann Peltz, and Carlo Weber. The centerpiece of the stadium are the sweeping canopies made up of acrylic glass held in place by steel cables. The design was meant to mirror the Alps and offer a light and open counterpart to the 1936 Berlin Olympics which were a showcase for the Nazi Regime. The disaster of the '<a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1137646,00.html" target="_hplink">Black September' attack</a> on the Israeli contingent in the Olympic village erased such hopes and ushered in the high security regime of the summer games to follow.
3. Estadio Olímpico Universitario Mexico City
<a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.dgsg.unam.mx/estadio.htm&prev=/search?q%3DEstadio%2BOl%25C3%25ADmpico%2BUniversitario%26hl%3Den%26prmd%3Dimvns&sa=X&ei=7WcNUMH3MIPW0QHH8Kz_Aw&ved=0CF8Q7gEwBQ" target="_hplink">Estadio Olímpico Universitario </a>is a stadium located in Mexico City that hosted the summer games of 1968. The original stadium opened in 1952 for use as a football arena for matches between American colleges and Mexican public universities. In retrospect this initial use is sadly ironic given that Mexican authorities opened fire on protesting students ten days before the opening ceremonies (<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97546687" target="_hplink">the Tlatelolco massacre</a>). The stadium itself, (the site of the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9393260/London-2012-Olympics-Tommie-Smith-and-John-Carlos-famous-Black-Power-salute-still-resonates-44-years-on.html" target="_hplink">famous black power salute by the American medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos</a>) was designed to resemble a volcano (presumably not an active one) and was built atop a stone volcanic surface. Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the building-designed by the Mexican team of Augusto Perez, Raul Salinas, and Jorge Bravo Moro-is <a href="http://blog.sport.co.uk/Football/1049/Top_Ten_Football-Artist_Connections.aspx" target="_hplink">a mural on the east side of the Stadium by Diego Rivera</a>. The piece called, "The University, the Mexican Family, Peace and Youth Sports," is an artistic cultural addition to the building of tremendous value.
4. Olympic Stadium Montreal
<a href="http://www.parcolympique.qc.ca/" target="_hplink">The Olympic Stadium of Montreal</a>, nicknamed 'The Big O' in reference to the doughnut shape of the roof and the 'O' of Olympics, and fitting for a games notorious for its astronomical costs. The Stadium was designed for the 1976 games by French architect Roger Tallibert and its retractable roof is its more striking feature. Although the building is cited as a masterpiece of organic modern architecture, the structure has suffered considerable damage since its construction. In March, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/04/montreal-olympic-stadium-concrete-slab_n_1319944.html" target="_hplink">a slab of concrete fell from the roof of the Stadium's parking facility</a> (the second time a piece of the building has broken off and fallen to the ground). And as usual, politics was never far from the scene: The Republic of China (Taiwan) withdrew after the liberal prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/17/newsid_3555000/3555450.stm" target="_hplink">refused to allow the use of that name</a>. <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/17/newsid_3555000/3555450.stm" target="_hplink">Twenty-five African nations withdrew to protest </a>the tour of a South African rugby team in New Zealand earlier that year.
5. Olympic Stadium London
<a href="http://www.london2012.com/venue/olympic-stadium/" target="_hplink">London's 2012 summer Olympic Stadium </a>began construction in May 2008 and opened in 2011. The architectural firm, <a href="http://populous.com/" target="_hplink">Populous</a> (who also designed the new Yankee Stadium, Stadium Australia in Sydney, as well as the soccer stadium in Johannesburg that housed the 2010 World Cup), won the bid for the design. The Stadium is designed to be partially dismantled for use after the games. Located on a diamond-shaped island between two waterways, the design offers spectators a podium that completes a circuit around the Stadium. Bridges connect the structure to the grand park. Presumably, the light and elegant structure will mollify irate Londoners who are dreading the standstill traffic, corporate control over tickets and venues, and guided missiles poised on apartment rooftops.
6. Panathinaiko Stadium Athens
<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics_2004/archery/venues_guide/default.stm" target="_hplink">The Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens</a> hosted the first modern Olympic games in 1896. The Stadium was reconstructed from the remains of the ancient Greek Stadium where the Panathenaic Games were hosted. It was first constructed out of wood, and then was renovated in 329 BC using pentelic marble from the mountains. In the 2004 Olympic Games, Panathinaiko Stadium hosted the archery competition as well as the end of the marathon. It is the only major stadium in the world built entirely out of white marble and is one of the oldest stadiums in the world.
7. ANZ Stadium Sydney
The <a href="www.anzstadium.com.au/" target="_hplink">ANZ Stadium</a>, also known as Stadium Australia and formerly known as Telstra Stadium, was completed in 1999. Like the Olympic Stadium in London, ANZ Stadium was designed by the design firm Populous. The Stadium opened with a capacity of 100,000, making it the largest stadium in all of Australia. Interestingly, the Stadium can be reconfigured from the shape of an oval to a rectangle in just 12 hours--making it the only stadium in the world that can host five different sporting codes. Following the Olympic Games, the Stadium was renovated to reduce the seating capacity to 83,500.
8. Olympic Stadium Athens
The<a href="http://www.stadia.gr/oaka/oaka-f.html" target="_hplink"> Olympic Stadium in Athens </a>, also known as "Spiros Louis," is named after the first modern Olympic marathon race winner in 1896. The Stadium was originally built in the early 1980s to host the 1982 European Championships in Athletics. However, the complex was remodeled extensively for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The mainstay of the renovated Stadium is the high-pressure hydraulic roof designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.
9. National Olympic Stadium Tokyo
<a href="http://naash.go.jp/kokuritu/" target="_hplink">The Stadium</a> was built for Toyko's 1964 Summer Olympic Games and designed by architect Mitsuo Katayama. Shockingly, the building was completely unharmed during the 2011 earthquake, a fact many attribute to Tokyo's strict building codes that the building adhered to. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/06/rugby-japan-olympics-idUSL4E8D65NM20120206" target="_hplink">The iconic Stadium is set to receive a billion dollar facelift</a> after placing a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games as well as the 2019 Ruby Showcase.
10. Helsinki Olympic Stadium
<a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fi&u=http://www.stadion.fi/&prev=/search?q%3DHelsinki_Olympic_Stadium%26hl%3Den%26prmd%3Dimvns&sa=X&ei=o4INUJTgB6L20gG_pdn4Aw&ved=0CHUQ7gEwBg" target="_hplink">The Helsinki Olympic Stadium </a>first opened in 1938 in preparation for the 1940 Summer Olympic Games. However, the Olympics were cancelled that year due to WWII. In 1952, the Stadium got its chance in the spotlight as the center of activities for the Summer Olympics that year. The Stadium was designed by architects Yrjo Lindegren and Toivo Jantti in a functionalist style. The centerpiece of the Stadium is the 236 foot tower which has sweeping views of Helsinki and is open to visitors year round.