Owned by the city, the Stade Gerland has been used by Olympique Lyonnais since 1950. But if the stadium has only hosted OL since World War II, it was in high demand from the turn of the century and between the two World Wars. Here’s its history...
The project to build a stadium in the city of Lyon saw the light of day thanks to the Mayor Edouard Herriot. It was he who engaged the architect Tony Garnier to design a sports complex for the International Expo of 1914, which was also to include a sports and physical education centre.
Obviously the stadium of the 1920s holds little resemblance to the majestic surrounds we know today. Tony Gernier chose to design an omni-sports arena boasting both athletics and cycling tracks. In 1926 the stadium was inaugurated by Edouard Herriot.
It was a typical sports stadium of the time, inspired by the Roman arenas with a circular gallery placed on a grass embankment. The four giant portals, designed by Garnier, were placed on the Historic Monuments list in 1967.
In the 1950’s Olympique Lyonnais based its headquarters at the Stade Gerland and slowly but surely football became the stadium’s dominant sport.
Despite several development projects proposed year after year, the Mayor’s office hoped to host the Olympic Games and envisaged building an 85,000 capacity stadium... Unfortunately the project never eventuated but the cycling track was demolished at the start of the 1960s having gloriously hosted several stages of the Tour de France.
It was in the 1980s, and the prospect of Euro ’84, that the Stade Gerland began its transformation, thanks notably to the repositioning of the Jean Jaurès and Jean Bouin Stands closer to the playing surface. Then the iron grills were replaced by a trench which gave the ground a much friendlier feel. Architect René Gagis was the brainschild behind these modifications.
Then came France ’98 and, above all, the architect Albert Constantin who modernised the Stade Gerland with two end stands, close to the pitch, each covered by 4,300m² metallic-textile structures. 28 fully-equipped VIP boxes required the addition of an entire level. In its current configuration, the stadium boasts four all-seater stands, guaranteeing the comfort of the 43,051 spectators which the ground can accommodate when filled to capacity.