Wembley Stadium was the centrepiece of the British Empire Exhibition in 1924. It was the first building to be built on the site, and construction began in January 1922.
The stadium was completed in a record-breaking 300 days, in time to house the 1923 F.A. Cup final between Bolton Wanders and West Ham. The structure was tested beforehand by a battalion of soldiers who stamped from foot to foot for an hour to see whether it was sufficiently strong for the crowds. On the day of the final, the start of the match was delayed for an hour as thousands of spectators invaded the pitch. Bolton Wanders eventually beat West Ham 2-0.
The stadium was designed by John and Maxwell Simpson and constructed from concrete. During the British Empire Exhibition seasons in 1924 and 25, it hosted performances and events such as The Pageant of Empire, which involved 15,000 largely amateur performers, and a gigantic Scout Jamboree.
The most popular event was the Great International Rodeo, which starred 300 American wild ponies and 500 Canadian longhorn bulls. It attracted nearly a million visitors and an attempt by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to close it down.
After the exhibition closed in 1925, Arthur Elvin, the demolition contractor, bought the structure. He transformed it into a greyhound-racing track with great success. However, football was the sport that became indelibly associated with Wembley Stadium throughout the 20th century. The building became the national stadium, hosting all the cup finals and major international matches including, memorably, the 1966 World Cup.
Despite its prestige as a venue, by the end of the 20th century the stadium was coming to the end of its useful life. By 2000, plans to demolish it were well under way.
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