Found at the heart of Manila is the Rizal Memorial Stadium, originally built in 1934 to host the Far Eastern Championship Games. Despite sustaining damage in the Second World War, it was reconstructed in 1954. Over the last seven decades, the Stadium has witnessed some of the most important sporting and entertainment events to have taken place in the country.
While the venue has continuously been a homestead for athletes, times have changed, and what once was the site of Filipino sporting triumphs has now become a shadow of its former self, falling into disrepair. In recent years, talks have arisen about tearing it down, moving the facility elsewhere, or renovating it. While the ultimate fate of Rizal Memorial is still up in the air, the issue has garnered mixed reactions from the public on what should be done with it.
To this day, the Rizal Memorial Stadium continues to house our athletes despite its condition. And while there are more modern sporting facilities available, it will always remain an historical and architectural gem that represents the many colorful stories of the Filipino athletes who have played within its walls.
As an important representation of the many Filipino sporting milestones that have taken place there, PlayPH presents a rundown of some of the most historic ones, as well as a few of the famous athletes who have indelibly left their mark in both local and international history.
The Rizal Memorial Stadium has been witness to the prowess of some of the country’s top athletes, as it was the venue for the games of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA), and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
It was at Rizal Memorial that Pinoy Felicisimo Ampon (the shortest athlete ever to compete in Wimbledon at 4’11”) dominated in tennis while the likes of Lydia de Vega and Isidro del Prado raised the bar in track and field. Basketball icons such as Robert Jaworski, Rudy Soriano, and Big Boy Reynoso also played on the court of Rizal Memorial.
It isn’t only local athletes the Rizal Memorial Stadium has witnessed but also international stars. Lou Gehrig himself scored the very first home run at the stadium, followed by fellow baseball legend Babe Ruth.
The Rizal Memorial Stadium was also the venue for The Beatles’ controversial concert of in 1966. An estimated 80,000 people were said to have attended the 2 sold-out shows.
In 1955, the New York Yankees played at the famed Rizal Memorial Stadium where baseball legends such as Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle have set foot in its very field.
The 1934 Far Eastern Championship Games was the 4-day sporting competition that was the precursor to the Asian games. The event had participants from China, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines.
With a total of 970 athletes participating in the 1954 Asian Games, around 20,000 spectators filled the Rizal Memorial Stadium during the opening ceremony. Participating countries included Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Thailand, South Korea, and plenty more.
It is also at the Rizal Memorial where the 2005 ASEAN Para Games was held where athletes from 11 Southeast Asian countries participated in. The Philippines is the 2nd country to host the event after Malaysia and Vietnam.
For last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, the Philippines was named a co-host of the tournament alongside Myanmar. The event ran for about a month, with 8 teams playing in 4 different venues, which include the Rizal Memorial Stadium.