Hrazdan Stadium is a multi-use, all-seater stadium in Yerevan, Armenia, opened in 1970. Being the largest sports venue in Armenia, Hrazdan is mostly used for football matches. It is the home stadium of the Armenian national team. The stadium is able to host 54,208 spectators after the most recent reconstruction in 2008, which converted the stadium into an all-seater one. Before the reconstruction, Hrazdan was able to hold up to 70,000 spectators. It was among the top four stadiums of the Soviet Union by its capacity. The stadium hosted the Armenian Cup finals during many occasions as well as the opening ceremony of the Pan-Armenian Games in 2003. The USSR national team played two games against Finland and Greece in Hrazdan in 1978.
Origin and construction
General view of the stadium
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The earliest idea of building a football stadium in the valley of Hrazdan river was proposed by the First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union Anastas Mikoyan in his visit to Yerevan in the 1950s. During his stay at the presidential mansion on a hill overlooking the Hrazdan river, he observed a "natural amphitheater" in Hrazdan gorge and proposed the construction of a football venue with a capacity of 30,000 seats. However, the idea never became serious during that period.
In 1967, the authorities of Soviet Armenia launched a serious program to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sovietization of Armenia in 1970. A group of architects, led by former weightlifter Koryun Hakopyan and former fencer Gurgen Musheghyan proposed the construction plan of a football stadium in Hrazdan gorge, to host around 75,000 spectators.
A total amount of 5 million rubles was allocated for the project. The construction works were launched during the second half of 1969 and with the financial support of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, completed in a remarkable period of 18 months.
The construction process was highly supervised by the Communist leader Karen Demirchyan. Finally, the venue became ready in November 1970. The official opening of the stadium took place on November 29, 1970 with the presence of Leonid Brezhnev, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Armenian SSR. However, the planned ceremony for the opening day was postponed due to heavy snow.
Hrazdan Stadium hosted its first official football match on May 19, 1971 when Ararat Yerevan defeated Kairat Almaty 3-0 in front of 78,000 spectators, with Alexandr Kovalenko Oganes Zanazanyan (74th min. pen.) and Nikolai Kazaryan (77th min.) scoring for the hosts.
The stadium hosted some glorious moments of the Armenian football during Soviet era. The Armenians celebrated Ararat Yerevan's double of the Soviet football in 1973, which allowed them to play in the European Cup. Reaching the quarterfinals, they lost the first leg to the defending and future champions Bayern Munich with a result of 2-0 while they won the 2nd leg 1-0 in Hrazdan stadium in front of more than 70,000 spectators.
In 1985, Hrazdan was one of the venues of the FIFA World Youth Championsh took place in the Soviet Union. It hosted the matches of the 1st group as well as a match during the quarter finals.
Aftr the independence of Armenia, the arena hosted the matches of the national team until 1999 when the smaller Republican Stadium in downtown Yerevan became its home ground. The largest number of spectators for the National team was recorded on October 9, 1996, in a 1998 World Cup qualification match against Germany. Attended by 42,000 fans, the match ended in favour of the Germans with a result of 5-1.
The history of the stadium is closely related with the history of Armenian football. The Stadium which was built in a record period of 18 months, is the first in the world that was built in a mountainous landscape.
The architects of the stadium were Koryun Hakobyan and Gurgen Musheghyan from Armenia. The construction process was supervised by engineer Edward Tossunian. The architectural group of the stadium was granted the award of the best construction of the year in 1971 and honoured by the Soviet Government.
The stadium in 2008
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In 2003 the stadium was privatized and sold to the Hrazdan Holding CJSC, who began to set up a renovation process in 2005. By the end of 2008 the stadium became all-seater.
Shortly after its renovation the Stadium hosted Armenia's match against Turkey on 6 September 2008, which was the first match Armenia had played at ground since a Euro 2000 qualifying match against France on 8 September 1999. The crucial match was attended by presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Abdullah Gul, with the presence of more than 30,000 spectators.
After the 2008 renovation, Hrazdan held UEFA three-star status until that rating was superseded by a new system of classification.
According to the president of Armenian Football Federation Ruben Hayrapetyan, a total of 6 million Euros will be spent for the modernization of the infrastructure, the pitch, the running track and the installation of a full-tribune cover for the stadium. After the upcoming renovation, the stadium will have an opportunity to bid as a host-venue for UEFA club competitions final matches. The renovation works began in March. An estimated US$ 10 million was invested.
In 1989, a year after the 1988 Armenian earthquake that killed 25,000 people and left more than 500,000 homeless, along with the break out of the Karabakh movement and the rise of nationalism, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were looking for some kind of temporary diversion from the devastation and feeling the importance of national activities. More than 110,000 fans packed the Hrazdan stadium to hear revolutionary and patriotic songs performed by the Armenian famous singer Harout Pamboukjian. Then-Minister of Culture Yuri Melik-Ohanjanian remarked this was the highest-attended performance in the history of Armenia.
FC Ararat Yerevan
Top 10 matches for Ararat Yerevan with the highest attendance during the Soviet era:
- 19 May 1971, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 3-0 Kairat Almaty, att. 78,000.
- 19 March 1975, 1974–75 European Cup quarter finals, 2nd leg: Ararat Yerevan 1-0 Bayern Munich, att. 70,000.
- 28 October 1973, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 3-2 Zenit Leningrad, att. 70,000.
- 13 October 1974, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 2-2 Dinamo Tbilisi, att. 70,000.
- 22 July 1973, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 3-0 Dinamo Minsk, att. 70,000.
- 14 April 1973, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 1-1 [pen. 4-3] Zarya Voroshilovgrad, att. 70,000.
- 14 September 1971, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 0-1 Dinamo Tbilisi, att. 70,000.
- 20 June 1971, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 1-0 Shakhtyor Donetsk, att. 70,000.
- 16 July 1975, Soviet Cup semifinal: Ararat Yerevan 3-1 Dinamo Tbilisi, att. 68,600.
- 8 July 1973, Soviet Top League: Ararat Yerevan 1-0 CSKA Moscow, att. 66,000.
- 9 October 1996, 1998 World Cup qualifying, group 9: Armenia 1–5 Germany, att. 42,000.
- 20 September 1978, Euro 1980 qualifying, group 6: Soviet Union 2-0 Greece, att. 40,000.
- 26 April 1995, Euro 1996 qualifying, group 2: Armenia 0–2 Spain, att. 35,000.
- 12 October 2012, 2014 World Cup qualifying, Group B: Armenia 1-3 Italy, att. 32,000.
- 6 September 2008, 2010 World Cup qualifying, group 5: Armenia 0–2 Turkey, att. 30,000.