Temples of The Cult: The Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino

In our journey across the most famous Italian football stadiums, today we come back to the city of Turin. The most famous club from the city has been consistently reaping victories in recent years, but Turin is also the cradle of Torino – a club with less international reputation born from a group of Juventus dissidents in 1907 that truly exemplifies the passion for football in the city. Their current home is appropriately called Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino.

The history of this stadium begins in the 1930s when Benito Mussolini’s regime needed a new venue to host the Littoriali games and the International Student Championships. The city chosen was Turin and so in 1933, a “multipurpose stadium” was built (if you read any previous article from our Temples of The Cult column, you know what that means).

The stadium was named Stadio Municipale Benito Mussolini. As we already saw in the past, creativity was not exactly the strongest point of the Fascist regime when it came to naming stadiums.

As time was pressing and the venue was still far from finished, the construction works were split among three different companies to save time: The stadium was assigned to Saverio Parisi’s company; the athletics track and the Torre Maratona to engineers Vannacci and Lucherini; the swimming pool to the engineer Faletti’s company.

With its elegant and classic shape, the Stadio Municipale, which eventually became Comunale, has been a landmark of Turin for many decades

The Municipale was inaugurated on May 14, 1933, but the first football match was played in June. It was a European Cup Quarter-Finals game between Juventus and Újpest FC. From then on, the stadium began to host the local matches of Juventus.

The following year, the stadium was one of the venues for the first World Cup held in Italy, although it featured only two games, a Round of 16 match and a Quarter-Final.

While Juventus played at the Municipale, Torino were using the legendary Stadio Filadelfia – a venue that would deserve a full article itself. The Filadelfia is part of the history of the Granata, who lived their best years there, including the age of the Grande Torino during the 1940s. On this ground, amicably known as La Fossa dei Leoni (“The Lions’ Den”), Torino won six Scudetto and were unbeaten for six years. That means more than 100 games without a loss at home. They were not called the “Great” Torino for nothing.

For one season in the late 1950s, Torino played their home games at the Stadio Comunale (This was the new name given to the Stadio Municipale after World War II and the fall of Mussolini’s regime). However, they promptly returned to the Filadelfia after being relegated – their old stadium being considered a sort of lucky charm.

However, time was taking its toll on the iconic Filadelfia, and in 1964 Torino decided to move permanently to the Stadio Comunale, which they had to share with Juventus.

The Stadio Filadelfia is a legendary venue for every Torino fan. After years of abandonment, the stadium was finally refurbished and is now used as a training ground by the Granata

The two Turin-based teams both played their home games in this stadium for almost 30 years. In 1985, the Comunale was also the stage for a UEFA SuperCup won by Juventus.

But, as the 1990 World Cup approached and the construction of the brand-new Stadio Delle Alpi was completed, both Juventus and Torino moved there and the original stadium was abandoned. When we say “abandoned” we mean it literally, as nobody took care of the Comunale for the following 20 years.

There were several attempts to bring it back to life during that period as the Delle Alpi was never to the liking of either team or their fans. In 1994 already, Juventus thought of returning to the Comunale and restructuring it but eventually opted for revamping the Delle Alpi.

So, the real turning point for the old ground came in 2001 when Turin was chosen to host the 2006 Winter Olympics. Bringing the Comunale back to life, however, was not an immediate choice. Right in those years, Torino rather had the idea of buying and fitting out the old Stadio Filadelfia but lacked the funds to do so.

The Comune of Torino initially proposed to sell the Delle Alpi to both teams who would have it as a co-ownership, but it quickly turned impossible to put Torino and Juventus in agreement. When Torino abandoned their idea of revamping the Filadelfia, however, the city council managed to sell the Delle Alpi to Juventus and the Comunale to Torino.

Torino came out as a winner, as the stadium was completely restructured for the Olympic Games, and they ended up having a state-of-the-art playing ground as their new home – now rightfully called Stadio Olimpico. After the winter games, the stadium had to be shared for a few years as Juventus were building their new ground on the ashes of the demolished Delle Alpi.

The Comunale of Turin was subject to a massive restyling in the occasion of the 2006 Winter Olympics, which turned it into one of the most modern playing grounds in Italy

When Juventus moved to their Allianz Stadium in 2011, the Torino fans started asking for a new, more personal name for their home – one that could be representative of the Granata spirit. So, in 2016, the city council agreed to add the Grande Torino denomination to the Olimpico. Since, by law, any stadium that has hosted the Olympic Games needs to be called “Olympic,” the official name of the ground became Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino.

Grande Torino (“Great Torino”) is how the Granata squad used to be called back in the 1940s. It was a lethal, almost invincible team, surely the best in the history of Torino and one of the most successful in Serie A. They won five Scudetto in a row and were the backbone of the Nazionale at the time.

The age of the Grande Torino ended in tragedy as, on 4 May 1949, on their way back from a friendly match against Benfica in Lisbon, a terrible plane crash took the lives of the entire squad, their managers, and some journalists.

It was an event that marked a before and after in the history of football and that still today is remembered with sorrow by all calcio fans. It did, however, also trigger some acts of solidarity among the teams: Torino were forced to play the remaining matches of the championship with their youth players, and their rivals agreed to do the same as an act of respect and justice.

On a side note, Torino were already so ahead in the table that even losing the remaining games wouldn’t have prevented them from winning yet another Scudetto – which was awarded to them posthumously.

The tragic event also sparked a long-lasting friendship between Torino and River Plate. The Argentine club, who was very wealthy at that time, organized a friendly match to raise funds for the players’ families. Because of that, you can often see Torino featuring River’s famous red band on their jerseys, and the Argentines wearing a characteristic maroon (Granata) shirt.

Despite being relatively new – at least in its latest incarnation – the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino has an imposing name that makes the city and their Torino team proud. The Granata have not been enjoying their best seasons recently but, after many years of wandering and sharing a stadium, they seem to have found a new home that has all the elements to become a new Filadelfia.

Seeing Torino’s supporters’ impressive maroon wall at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino is an experience every football lover should do at least once

Click Below to Visit Some More Temples of The Italian Football Cult:

The San Paolo Stadium in Napoli
The Luigi Ferraris aka Marassi in Genoa
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome
The Renato Dall’Ara Stadium in Bologna
The San Nicola Stadium in Bari
The Renzo Barbera or La Favorita in Palermo
The Ennio Tardini Stadium in Parma
The Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence
The Late Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin
Atalanta’s Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo
The Cibali or Angelo Massimino In Catania
The Stadio Adriatico Giovanni Cornacchia In Pescara
The Stadio Friuli or Dacia Arena In Udine
Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium In Reggio Emilia
San Siro, The “Scala del Calcio” In Milan