Rungrado

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(Originally published in March 2010)

 

In the last issue I reported on the televisions that were everywhere in New York. While watching some American-style football (on television) last Thanksgiving I was introduced to the new 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium. This is in Texas, the state in America which is a famous synonym for all things big. The structure is said to be the largest domed stadium in the world, and it contains the biggest column-free roofed space you can find anywhere on the planet.

But what wowed me was the video. This monster is suspended over the playing field like a big Toblerone-shaped spaceship. It spans from twenty-yard line to twenty-yard line. (No, I can’t explain what this means, please consult an encyclopedia.) I was fully convinced that, before the end of the first quarter, a glowing hole would appear somewhere in this monolith and a giant raygun would pop out and incinerate all the humans silly enough to be standing nearby. This always happens around alien spaceships. But, no, the aliens just hovered, showing the game, the replays and just a word or two from the programme’s sponsers.

The main screens, running the length of the spaceship, are 180 feet wide by 50 feet high (for a diagonal of 2,241 inches, gasp). That makes 9,000 square feet of video each. Add to that the two ‘small’ screens facing the end zones, with 1,296 square feet each and you get 20,592 square feet of video real estate along with 57,600 feet of grass to keep the audience enthralled.

Surprise, surprise, all this square footage (and the cost of the world-record-breaking stadium) has led to higher ticket prices at the new venue. But, in Texas, football is a religion and the spectacle I witnessed in this football-shaped temple looked well attended. Like all true acolytes the fans are willing to make their sacrifice on that high alter we call the Cash Register. The cheapest season ticket I could find on the Cowboys’ website costs $2,790 and gives you 17 games. Around $164 for an hour of distant sport and two hours of advertising. The hot dogs cost extra.

The biggest stadium in the world, with 150,000 seats, is the Rungrado May First Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea. The price of a Rungrado season ticket is a state secret. And the less said about dogs in North Korea the better. But the hermit kingdom, while it might have the missiles and the marching bands, doesn’t have the televisions to match Texas.

At present, the Cowboys’ video screens cover only a third of a football field in area. Presumeably, because bigger is better, we can look forward to a full 60,000 square feet of video in the arena. With a corresponding seat capacity of say, a quarter million, the playing field will look no bigger than an entry ticket to most in the audience. But never mind, they’ll be watching televisions that will make Texas proud.