The field of dreams – and the story behind it
The largest Olympic stadium ever built set all kinds of attendance records at the Games for which it was constructed. Back in 2000, 104,098 watched the Olympic men’s football final, in which Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon defeated Xavi’s Spain after both players had converted their penalties in the shoot-out.
Today going by the name of Stadium Australia but still commonly known as the Sydney Olympic Stadium, the arena currently holds around 83,000 depending on whether it’s being used in rectangular or oval fashion. This was after a configuration in 2003, although that wasn’t the last of the rectangular/oval debate.
In 2016, the then governor of New South Wales, which owns the stadium, announced that the venue would overhauled for rectangular use only, ie for sports such as soccer, Aussie rules and rugby, particularly the league variety – the NRL Grand Final packs the house every year.
The rebuild didn’t happen, so the stadium continues to echo its 2000 heritage and be associated with golden moments in Australian soccer, the most gilded being the heroics of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in 2005 as his saves against Uruguay took the Socceroos to their first World Cup in 32 years.
The Matildas, who kick off their bid to win the Women’s World Cup here against Ireland, attracted a crowd of 36,109 here against USA in November 2021 – although this record will surely be broken should the team go through to the final or semi-final, also scheduled to be staged in the nation’s showcase arena.
Depending on numbers, fans from rival teams will be allocated sectors 117-121 and 140-144 behind each goal, at the north and south ends. The East Stand along Olympic Boulevard and the West on Edwin Flack Avenue have the capacity to accommodate VIPs and the many hospitality areas.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
Olympic Park is 15km west of central Sydney in Homebush Bay. Olympic Park station is on the T7 Olympic Park Line of NSW TrainLink, with direct services to and from Central Station on match days. At other times, head to Lidcombe on the T1, T2 and T3 lines, then change the one stop to Olympic Park, 5min journey time.
On match days during the Women’s World Cup, transport is included in the price of your ticket.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
The most suitable spot for a match-day drink at the Stadium Australia is The Locker Room, on Olympic Boulevard, with pre-show entertainment before major concerts and a special event menu for the big sporting occasion. You can also reserve a table – though it’s fully booked for July 20, and the Matildas’ home debut at the World Cup.
In the Novotel Hotel, The Brewery offers indoor and outdoor seating, though expect tables to be at a premium on big-match nights. It’s also alongside the stadium, where Olympic Boulevard meets Dawn Fraser Avenue.
A string of eateries lines the footpaths either side of Olympic Park station – ribs and rumps probably appeals most to sports fans though it’s strictly carnivores only. Tap beers include Stone and Wood from Byron Bay and Kosziuszko from Jindabyne, sold by the pint or schooner.