Built for the 4th World Festival of Youth and Students in 1953, the original stadium was opened on 31st July that year as Stadionul 23 August, named for Romania’s national day at the time. It was renamed Stadionul Naţional in 1990, and then again in 1998 (Lia Manoliu Stadium) to honor the late Olympic gold medalist discus thrower who in her sporting career won three medals at the Olympic Games.
Originally designed as a multifunctional earth bank stadium, the 1953 design had a maximum crowd capacity of 60,120, and like many stadiums of the 60s had no roof. The stadium was not only home to the Romanian national team, but after the 1989 revolution hosted numerous concerts by international pop stars as well.
Impressive though the old single tier seating arrangement for 60,000 spectators laid out around the oval of the athletics track may have appeared, that kind of layout is unsuitable for the requirements of a modern football stadium. To meet the requirements of a modern purely football stadium, much of the existing seating was removed and the new two-level seating moved closer to the edge of the football pitch. The necessary functional areas for VIPs, press and players were added, and the whole stadium was roofed in with a filigree membrane structure.
The concept of an earthen ramp stadium was however retained in the scheme for the new stadium, which has a crowd capacity of 55,000. As before, spectators get to the 16,500 lower-tier seats by going down from the top of a bank reached by climbing broad flights of steps outside. Access to the steps to the upper tier, where there is seating capacity for another 35,500 spectators, is from the same encircling walkway, which has a view over the whole sports park. On Level 2, another open foyer ring provides horizontal distribution of spectators bearing tickets for the upper tier. At that height, twenty meters up, visitors also get a broad panorama of Lia Manoliu Sports Park in the center of Bucharest.
At the west end of the stadium, the principle of the earthen ramp stadium is interrupted by the main entrance. Here, all the special function areas of the stadium are laid out on five levels.