Georgia’s Dinamo Arena - Once the third most attended stadium in Europe
22 December, 2017
It was in the beginning of the 1980s, when FC Dinamo Tbilisi was enjoying their best and the most successful period ever, that UEFA had published the list of the most attended European stadiums and Georgia’s Dinamo Arena came third, losing only to Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu
and Bayern Munich’s Olympiastadion.
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Georgia’s Dinamo Arena

That was a different time in all aspects and the biggest football stadium in Georgia was called Vladimir Lenin Dinamo Stadium. It was built in 1976 and the first official match it hosted was a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup game between Dinamo Tbilisi and Cardiff City.
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From that day on, the ground changed its name several times, from Vladimir Lenin Dinamo Stadium to Boris Paitchadze National Stadium to Boris Paitchadze Dinamo Arena and through the years it witnessed many and many unforgettable games.
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Discussing the maquette of Dinamo Arena

But the history of Dinamo Tbilisi’s home ground starts much earlier, in the 1930s, when the first football stadium was built in the Georgian capital. It could seat only 23 000 people and as the popularity of the team increased it became necessary to make some changes in the structure, so that the new seats could be added. In 1956 the capacity was increased to 36 000 but it was obvious that it would not be enough and the new stadium would have to be built in the near future.
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Fans attending the game at Dinamo Arena

Dinamo Tbilisi was one of the most prominent clubs in Soviet football and a major contender in the Soviet Top League almost immediately after it was established in 1936. The club was then part of one of the leading sport societies in the Soviet Union, the All-Union Dynamo sports society which had several other divisions besides football and was sponsored by the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs. Its main claim to European fame was winning the Cup Winners' Cup in 1981, beating FC Carl Zeiss Jena of East Germany 2–1 in the final in Düsseldorf.
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The old Dinamo team

In 1979, the club played its first match in the UEFA European Cup tournament. In the first round Dinamo knocked out English side Liverpool, at the time one of the strongest teams in European football. After losing the first match at Anfield 1–2, Dinamo comfortably beat the opponent 3–0 in Tbilisi and advanced to the next round, where they were eliminated by German champions Hamburg. 100 000 fans attended the game.

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Dinamo Tbilisi - Liverpool 3:0

Throughout its history, FC Dinamo Tbilisi produced many famous Soviet players: Boris Paichadze, Avtandil Gogoberidze, Shota Iamanidze, Mikheil Meskhi, Slava Metreveli, Murtaz Khurtsilava, Manuchar Machaidze, David Kipiani, Vladimir Gutsaev, Aleksandre Chivadze, Vitaly Daraselia, Ramaz Shengelia, and Tengiz Sulakvelidze. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, it would later produce some of the finest Georgian players such as Temur Ketsbaia, Shota Arveladze, Giorgi Kinkladze, Kakha Kaladze, and Levan Kobiashvili.

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Dinamo Tbilisi was one of a handful of teams in the Soviet Top League (along with Dynamo Kyiv and Dynamo Moscow) that were never relegated. Their most famous coach was Nodar Akhalkatsi, who led the team to the Soviet title in 1978, two Soviet Cups (1976 and 1979), and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1981.
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Technically, the stadium’s maximum capacity was around 77 000 people, but it was not all seated, which made it possible for up to 100 000 fans to sneak through during some of the most anticipated and interesting games, which included Dinamo Tbilisi facing the likes of Liverpool, Hamburg, Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, Feyenoord, West Ham United, or the Georgian National Team facing Germany, Italy or England.
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By the beginning of 2000s, the stadium’s capacity was reduced to 54 000 due to the fact that it became all seated, but it still remains the biggest, the most popular and the most loved arenas in Georgia, which evokes some very sweet memories, as well as a hope that the best times are yet to come.

The video depicts football match held between Dinamo Tbilisi and Liverpool in 1979

Related stories:

Dinamo, Dinamo, Dinamo!

How Tbilisi’s Dinamo Arena looked like in 1940

How Dinamo Tbilisi enthralled British football fans in the midst of the Cold War - The Guardian
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