Wembley's giant arch rises above 'world's most spectacular stadium'

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The Independent Online

Four times the height of football's most famous twin towers and with a span as wide as 275 double-decker buses, the new Wembley Stadium rose majestically into the London skyline yesterday.

Four times the height of football's most famous twin towers and with a span as wide as 275 double-decker buses, the new Wembley Stadium rose majestically into the London skyline yesterday.

The construction of the arch, 133 metres high and with a 315-metre span, marks the first stage in what architects describe as the most spectacular stadium in the world. The arch is large enough for the London Eye to be rolled underneath.

The structure has now been lifted to its final resting position at an angle of 112 degrees. It was prefabricated on site over 10 months and it took six weeks to lift the 17,500-ton arch into place.

It is hoped that it will replace the old stadium's twin towers in the nation's affections. Michael Cunnah, chief executive of Wembley National Stadium Limited, said the erection of the arch was a historic moment that would change London's skyline. "The arch is now visible for all to see and has already generated great excitement from Londoners and visitors to the capital," he said. "This signals that, once again, Wembley Stadium will be the greatest in the world."

The 90,000-seat stadium, designed by Lord Foster of Thames Bank, is expected to be ready in time for the 2006 FA Cup final. As the world's tallest stadium with the biggest single-span roof, it is also expected to be the world's most spectacular.

The iconic twin towers, which stood at Wembley for 80 years and became synonymous with English football, were demolished in February last year. The tops of the towers are being kept in storage until the £575m project is completed, after which they will feature in a Wembley Hall of Fame museum at the new ground. Wembley Park Underground station will be renovated to allow it to handle 40,000 people an hour.

The deal for the project was agreed in September 2002 after years of delays.

The old stadium closed its gates on a low note. The final match played before its closure on 7 October 2000 was a 0-1 defeat for England at the hands of Germany. Kevin Keegan resigned as team manager immediately afterwards.

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