Principality Stadium: 20 years of Cardiff's iconic landmark

The Principality Stadium, which has hosted some of the world's biggest events, is celebrating it's 20th anniversary as one of Cardiff's most iconic buildings.

Originally named the Millennium Stadium, the doors opened to a half completed stadium on 26 June 1999 with a historic moment to match. The Wales rugby team sealed a win over the then world Champions South Africa for this first time.

Since then there's been no shortage of major sporting and music events at the venue.

The 74,000 seater stadium has hosted three Rugby World Cups, a Champions League Final, four Heineken Cup Finals, Six FA Cup finals, 2012 Olympic Games football as well as hosting the world's biggest artists including Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran, Beyonce and the Spice Girls.

Wales made history when they beat South Africa in the first game at the stadium in June 1999. Credit: PA

Sports' biggest stage

  • Wales beat South Africa: In 1999 Mark Taylor sealed his place in the history books with a 42nd minute try after a well timed Neil Jenkins pass. It was Wales' first-ever win over South Africa.

  • FA Cup Finals: It's hosted six FA Cup between 2001 and 2006 while Wembley Stadium was being rebuilt.

  • Grand Slam: In 2005, Wales beat Ireland 32-20 to win their first Grand Slam since 1978, before adding three more under their belt in Cardiff in 2008, 2012 and 2019.

  • The making of Joe Calzaghe: In 2007, 50,000 people watched the 35-year-old Welshman cement himself as one of the best British boxers with a win against Denmark's Mikkel Kessler.

  • Champions League Final: In 2017, the Principality stadium played host to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo as Juventus played Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Real Madrid won 4-1.

Read more: Cardiff praised for playing host to Joshua V Takam fight

Wales won the Grand Slam in 2019. Credit: PA


In 1995, the Welsh Rugby Union won the right to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup and it was quickly decided that the national stadium's 53,000 capacity was not enough and no longer fit to showcase national events.

A committee decided that a new and bigger stadium, on the same site, was the best option.

Glanmor Griffiths of the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff Council officer Pat Thompson led the project, with decisions such as keeping it in the heart of Cardiff and installing a retractable roof. Both proving key in making the venue multi-functional and fit for staging global events.

The only other retractable roof in Europe at the time was at the Amsterdam Arena - the home of Ajax Football Club.

Redevelopment began in September 1997 after auctioning of parts of the old National Stadium and within two years it was complete and has since seen two decades of success.

In 2015 the Millennium Stadium was renamed Principality Stadium as the result of a 10-year naming rights deal with the Principality Building Society.

Work began to replace the national stadium in 1997. Credit: PA

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The stadium has helped inject £2.75bn into the area over the last 20 years, and has helped support around 2,500 jobs in Cardiff and Wales each year.

It's welcomed more than 4m visitors, with over 60% of those being international rugby fans and around 20% (720,000) at pop and rock concerts.

A report found that the Stadium is Wales’ top single site attraction.

Joe Calzaghe made his mark as a boxing great at the then Millennium Stadium in 2007. Credit: PA

Facts about Principality Stadium:

  • It cost £121m to build.

  • It's the largest fully-retractable stadium roof in the UK which takes a 20 minutes to open and close because of its size.

  • Its hosted more than 500 major events

  • It was voted the best rugby venue in the world

  • Anthony Joshua's fight against Carlos Takam in 2017 saw the highest attendance of 78,000 people.

  • 40,000 tonnes of concrete and 16,000 tones of steel were used to build the stadium.