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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK

UK: Wales

Stadium praised for 'coliseum' atmosphere

The Millennium Stadium has an atmosphere like a 'bear pit'

On the eve of the opening exchanges in the Rugby World Cup, the new Millennium Stadium has been applauded as being the best of its kind in the world.

Sunday Times rugby writer Steve Jones, who has visited the world's top sporting venues, said Cardiff's centrepiece £121m development beats the opposition hands down.

Rugby writer Steve Jones: "Sydney is very open and impersonal"
"It is almost like a Roman coliseum and bear pit," he said.

"People should be above the play and looking down on it, rather than detached from it."

The Millennium Stadium's nearest rivals - the Stade Francais and Sydney Olympic Stadium - still fall short of the atmosphere created in Cardiff, said Mr Jones.

[ image: Wales coach Graham Henry hopes a capacity 72,500 crowd will lift the team to victory]
Wales coach Graham Henry hopes a capacity 72,500 crowd will lift the team to victory
"At Cardiff I do not think there is a bad seat in the house," he said.

"Usually, the pride in your rugby comes from your national team - we have had some of that lately - but the stadium is so symbolic and outstanding, it has lifted people just by being there.

"It is a great statement of faith and confidence."

He added: "I do not think we have seen it at its best yet."

He explained that with thousands of corporate guests attending matches at the stadium, the atmosphere was likely to be less awesome than it would with a full house of Welsh rugby fans.

Other venues simply did not create the same atmosphere, he said.

"Sydney is an athletics stadium - open and impersonal.

"The worst stadium is Twickenham. You can be at the back of Twickenham and feel like you are at a different match."

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