University Olympic Stadium, 70 Years of History and Puma Identity

The stadium is the second largest in the country and has a capacity for 72 thousand of spectators. It was immortalized as the main venue for the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games, where the opening and closing ceremonies took place, as well as track and field races.

University Olympic Stadium, 70 Years of History and Puma Identity
The University Olympic Stadium has a rich history and proud puma heritage spanning seven decades. Credit: UNAM

Does anyone know how many goooooyas shouted, how many interpretations of the University Sports Anthem, how many shouts of Mé-xi-co... Mé-xi-co was thrown into the air in three beats, how many tears of joy or sadness, how many laughs, anger, illusions, disappointments, how many awards for effort or claims for the absence of effort, fit in 70 years or, better yet, how much of all this has had a place in the University Olympic Stadium?

An architectural jewel considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it is the second largest stadium in the country, with an approximate capacity for more than 50 thousand spectators, and is remembered for the immortality of the world for having been the main venue of the Olympic Games in Mexico.

In 1968, in addition to the athletics competitions, the opening and closing ceremonies were held there, the latter being qualified as the most emotional and joyful of the modern Olympic Games held up to that time, because the participating athletes made a party on its court and tartan track, sang and danced, and caused the people who crowded the stands to follow them.

Maximiliano Aguilar Salazar, director of Representative Sports of the General Directorate of University Sports (DGDU) of UNAM, paraded with the Mexican contingent; he was also a competitor in swimming in the 100-meter butterfly.

"My best memory was when I had the opportunity to represent my country in the 1968 Olympic Games, where I had to parade in the stadium, both in the opening and closing ceremonies. Unforgettable adventure and experiences for Aguilar Salazar, who later had more as a member of the national water polo team at the Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.

Estadio Olímpico Universitario
Estadio Olímpico Universitario. Credit: UNAM

The real inauguration of the Olympic University Stadium

Conceived by architects Augusto Pérez Palacios, Raúl Salinas Moro, and Jorge Bravo Jiménez, the stadium, in a hollow, had its first stone laid on August 7, 1950. Planned from the beginning with a vision of the future of sports, the most modern technological advances of the time were used and also contemplated the artistic part of the building, a task entrusted to the great muralist and painter Diego Rivera, who painted part of the mural "University, family and sports in Mexico" on the slopes of the stadium, a work that unfortunately remained unfinished due to the death of the author.

The University Stadium (its first name) was inaugurated on November 20, 1952, by then President Miguel Alemán Valdés and the Rector of the UNAM, Luis Garrido Díaz, with the first activities of the II National Youth Games.

However, the collective memory preserves the idea that the inauguration of the University City Stadium was with the XXIV American soccer classic between the Pumas of UNAM and the Burros Blancos of IPN, a vibrant game held on November 29, the date on which the first full house was recorded, a game about which the newspapers of the time report the attendance of more than one hundred thousand spectators. They showed people occupying the aisles, the "inner walls or top of the building" and even people -mainly young students- occupying part of the side of the field.

70 years of history and puma identity at the University Olympic Stadium.
70 years of history and puma identity at the University Olympic Stadium. Credit: UNAM

It was a special day for the Pumas because, in a vibrant game, they turned the score around in the last minutes and defeated their fierce rival 20-19. Since then, the stadium has been home to the American Football team and the university felines in general.

In 1955, the Pan American Games were held, with the participation of more than 2,500 athletes from 22 nations in the inaugural parade, where there was also a Football Tournament in a league format.

In 1956, the active university campus hosted the Pan American Soccer Championship, where the Brazilian team won the title and Mexico came in fifth place.

The big event took place in 1968 with the inauguration of the Olympic Games. Beforehand, the necessary modifications had been made to the field and the track was laid with tartan, as well as the lighting to meet the needs of the competitions that would be held there.

The electronic board was also used for the first time and the cauldron was changed for a more modern one, which would be lit by the young athlete, Enriqueta Basilio, barely 20 years old, the first woman responsible for carrying the Olympic fire in its last phase, after climbing the 93 steps that joined the track with the cauldron. Thus, the Games officially began.

In 1986 it was one of the venues for the Soccer World Cup, and in 1990 it also hosted the Central American and Caribbean Games.

It is a multi-purpose venue, hosting athletic, soccer, and soccer competitions, athletic galas, marathons, rock concerts, sports ceremonies, and entrance exams to the nation's University, among others, and has seen its senior soccer teams become champions, as well as the promotion of its professional soccer team to the first division and several of its seven championships.

For Aguilar Salazar, American soccer is UNAM's flagship sport and the stadium has been its home for 70 of the 95 years that this sport has been played at the National University; this is since before the ONEFA was formed, times in which victories were celebrated in the stands with the lighting of torches to cheer on the winning teams.

The stadium still retains its roots in the Pumas community. "It is a stadium that never goes out of style, with a capacity for more than 50,000 fans, adequate access, entrances, and exits, and it continues to be one of the best large-capacity stadiums," he said.

University Olympic Stadium has been around for 70 years.
University Olympic Stadium has been around for 70 years. Credit: UNAM

The celebrations for 70 years

For the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Estadio Olimpico Universitario (University Olympic Stadium), which takes place on November 20, UNAM will renovate the warm-up track, which was inaugurated in 1968, and will have a new tartan floor for the track and field athletes, says Aguilar Salazar.

"For November 20, we are preparing a commemorative ceremony for the 70th anniversary where there will be an athletics competition and a parade around the track of the Stadium, of the more than 70 sports disciplines practiced at UNAM. There will be great surprises," he says.