Introduction to the May Day Stadium
The May Day Stadium, Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, or Rungrado May Day Stadium is the most important stadium in North Korea.
Located in Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, it is the largest stadium in the world. As the world largest stadium it hosts the largest performance in the world, the Mass Games performance which involves over 100,000 performers. And this has been confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records!
The May Day Stadium was first opened on the 1st of May 1989. It’s located on Rungrado Island on the Taedonggang River. The stadium received its name as the “Rungrado 1st of May Stadium” due to being on said island. The 1st of May is an important day to North Koreans for being the date that International Workers’ Day. This is also a huge celebration throughout the socialist fraternity.
The seating capacity of the stadium is approximately 150,000. Some sources have stated 114,000, regardless it is the biggest in the world. The Rungrado May Day Stadium structurally occupies an area of 20.7 hectares (51 acres).
History of May Day Stadium
After Seoul was awarded the 1988 Summer Olympics, the DPRK was granted the right to host the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students. To date the largest international event held in the DPRK, with an estimated 20,000 foreign guests.
The Rungrado First of May Stadium, as well as the infamous Ryugyong Hotel, were built as part of this event. Pyongyang underwent the largest construction project the country has ever seen with other projects such as the Sosan Hotel, Chongnyon Youth Hotel and Liberation Street being completed.
The first “big” event held here was in 1995, with the “Collision in Korea” wrestling event. At the time this was the largest pay per view wrestling event jointly held by Japan Pro-Wrestling, and World Championship Wrestling (which later merged into WWE). No mean feat!
Of course, the most famous events to happen at the May Day Stadium are the Mass Games. The famous Arirang Festival was held here between 2002 – 2013. In 2007 the Arirang Mass Games made it into the Guinness Book of World Records when 100,090 participants took part in the event.
After the end of the Arirang Mass Games, the stadium underwent 2 years of renovation, re-opening in 2015.
In April of 2016, the Rungrado May Day Stadium hosted the Pyongyang Marathon, also known as Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon. Kim Il Sung Stadium which hosts the marathon event annually was under renovations. This made that particular marathon extremely special!
In 2017 the Rungrado May Day Stadium hosted six group stage matches as part of the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualification.
In 2018 the Mass Games returned with Glorious Fatherland, and coincided with the Inter-Korea summit which resulted in President Moon Jae-In giving an unprecedented speech to 150,000 citizens of the DPRK.
In 2019 the Mass Games made another return under the name of “The People’s Country” and was shown from June to October, one of the longer showings of the Mass Games performances.
Design of the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium
The structure of the stadium features 16 arches arranged in a ring forming the design of a Magnolia, the national flower of the DPRK, or a parachute. The height of the roof reaches 60 meters high from the ground.
There are eight levels in total with a total floor space of over 207,000 m² (2.2 million ft²) across the entire complex. The stadium includes over 1,300 rooms, including team locker rooms, training rooms, offices, etc.
The stadium has 80 entrances and the North Koreans say it is possible for 150,000 people to fill the stadium completely within 15 minutes. At least one entrance is used specifically for VIP dignitaries, including North Korea’s highest leaders and special foreign guests.
When is the Rungrado May Day Stadium used?
Most football matches are held at the Kim Il Sung Stadium, but some have been known to be held at the May Day Stadium, as well as the odd athletics event. With regards to football in North Korea it depends on just how important the match is. If you get a chance to see football at the 1st May Stadium, do not miss it. No stadium in Pyongyang can even come close in terms of ambience.
What’s in a name?
You will hear the stadium referred to by multiple names, namely, The May Day Stadium, Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, or Rungrado May Day Stadium. The official name of the arena is The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium. May Day is International workers day, still a major celebartion in many current and former socialist countries. Colloquially it is simply referred to as the May Day Stadium. May 1st and May Day essentially being the same thing. So, when you see the terms used interchangeably that is why.
How to visit the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium?
There are multiple ways to visit the Rungrado May Day Stadium. One of the best ways is to join our tours to spectate the Mass Games, or you may join us on a football tour, or we can arrange your guided tour of May Day Stadium to have a more in-depth look at the locker rooms, train facilities, offices, communication room and debrief rooms. For more information please get in touch with us.