Wembley Stadium is one of the most recognised sporting venues in the world. Over nearly 100 years it has played host to some of the most memorable moments in football history and has undergone a complete overhaul making it one of the world most advance stadia. But it’s not just football that’s ensured Wembley will always be “The Venue of Legends”.
Anyone remember these happening?
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EVEL KNIEVEL ATTEMPTS TO JUMP 13 LONDON BUSES 1975:
By the mid-1970’s Robert Craig Knievel, better known as Evel Knievel, was one of the most famous men on the planet, thanks mainly to being a pretty crap stuntman. Known for his daredevil motorcycle jumping (which always seemed to end badly for him) he was the person every young boy wanted to emulate and who every woman wanted to get under the duvet with.
His first high-profile jump came in 1967 when he attempted to leap over the fountains at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Unfortunately, he came up short landing on the safety ramp crushing his pelvis and femur.
Six years later he was at it again – this time attempting to clear the Snake River in a rocket-powered device nicknamed the “Skycycle”.
The jump was a complete disaster and Evel had to bail out using his parachute as his machine went crashing into the canyon below.
By now though, Knievel merchandise was big business and I wonder how many of you reading this had one of those wind-up stunt cycles that are now worth thousands on Ebay but, just like Evel himself, looked so exciting on the TV ads but ultimately left you disappointed.
In 1975, Knievel had exhausted his American audience so he headed across the pond to London to attempt to jump 13 London buses at Wembley Stadium on May 26th. 90,000 packed into the famous old ground to see if Evel could finally deliver on one of his promises and to be fair, he almost did after clearing the buses, but failing to control his stunt cycle on landing breaking his pelvis again.
Our hero picked himself up off the floor to reassure worried spectators that this would be his last ever jump. Within five months however, he was back in the saddle in his homeland successfully clearing 14 Greyhound buses in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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QUEEN AT LIVE AID 1985:
For people old enough to remember Live Aid at Wembley Stadium on July 13th 1985, two moments spring to mind – firstly there is co-organiser Bob Geldof saying the F-word on TV before the British public had had their tea and secondly, there’s the incredible live performance from Queen.
By the time of their appearance in London, the band was actually yesterday’s news, struggling to find their identity following a string of million-selling albums. By the end of that unforgettable Saturday night, they were the biggest band in the world again thanks largely to the performance of frontman Freddie Mercury who had the Wembley crowd in the palm of his hand in what has gone down as one of the most famous performances in musical history.
Living rooms all over the world were bouncing to the sound of “Radio Ga-Ga”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” and although the set only consisted of six songs and lasted just over 30 minutes, it changed the way Stadium Rock was performed forever.
DON FOX’S CHALLENGE CUP HEARTBREAK 1968:
The North’s big day comes to Wembley every year in the shape of the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final. Back in 1968, the mighty Leeds took on Wakefield Trinity in a game that was a personal nightmare for Trinity prop Don Fox.
Earlier in the day, the showpiece occasion looked in danger of being called off due to a biblical rainstorm that hit the capital, but the authorities deemed that the show must go on, much to Fox’s chagrin.
With players aquaplaning all over the famous Wembley turf, the match turned into a bit of a farce and as we headed towards the final whistle, it looked as though Leeds would narrowly edge the contest. Then in the dying seconds, Trinity winger Ken Hirst dramatically went over the whitewash to bring the underdogs within touching distance of their opponents and Wakefield would win the cup if Fox, who had already kicked two goals that afternoon, could knock a third one over from right in front of the posts.
Match commentator Eddie Waring set the scene perfectly explaining that Fox was thinking of retiring after this match and within a matter of seconds, poor old Don probably wishes he’d have bowed out a few months earlier as he sliced his kick wide of the sticks to hand Leeds the trophy. Waring knew how distraught Fox felt uttering the immortal words, “Poor lad” to the watching millions on Grandstand.
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CASSIUS CLAY V HENRY COOPER 1963:
Wembley has hosted some classic open-air boxing down the years and none more famous than the one in 1963 when Cassius Clay came to London to fight local hero Henry Cooper.
Clay, who would later change his name to Muhammad Ali, was already one of the most famous sportsmen on the planet when he fought “Our Enry” in the non-title bout that ended in controversy. Clay explained on his arrival in England that he’d only come to fight Cooper to warm-up for a World Title clash with Sonny Liston but at the end of Round 4 he was nearly meant to eat his words as Cooper unleashed a left-hook to become the first man to put Clay on the canvas.
What followed is still the subject of great debate as Clay’s trainer, the great Angelo Dundee, looked to pop smelling salts under the nose of his fighter which was a breach of the rules.
Dundee then told the referee that Clay’s glove had split claiming that the horsehair poking out could blind Cooper.
The time it took to fetch Clay a new pair of gloves ensured he’d recovered sufficiently to come out for the fifth-round where he subsequently went on to destroy his opponent.
Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali, the most famous sportsman of all-time; “Our Enry” would go on to make aftershave adverts with Kevin Keegan.
FANNY BLANKERS-KOEN’S GOLD MEDAL HAUL 1948:
London hosted its first Olympic Games in 1948 and Wembley Stadium was the venue for the athletics, show jumping, football and field hockey.
The Games were a personal triumph for Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen who won gold medals in the 100 and 200m, the 80m high hurdles and the 4×100 metre relay. She would have probably won more as by the time the Games opened, the woman known as “The Flying Housewife” due to the fact that she was 30-years-old and had two kids, held the world records for both the long jump and high jump.
Back then, however, women were not allowed to compete in more than three individual events, probably due to the fact that their husbands were useless with an iron and in the kitchen and needed their spouses back home ASAP.
Her gold medal haul, which made her the first Dutch athlete to win an Olympic title in athletics, shot her to stardom back home and when she returned to Amsterdam she was paraded around the city by horse-drawn carriage before being presented with…..a free bicycle!
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