Cardiff Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation.
With years of experience as a tour guide in Wales, Bill O’Keefe and photographer Emyr Young collected some of the lesser-known stories about Cardiff’s famous stadium for their new book, The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation.
At 2.45pm on 17th March,
I was sitting, along with 74,500 others (2.5% of Wales) in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, nervously awaiting kick off in the 6 Nations Championship match between Wales and France. Like everyone else, I’d paid for the whole seat but only used the edge of it. One estimate stated that 15% of the nation was within a mile of the ball at kick off time, such was the desire to be ‘there.’
This was just the latest episode in Wales’ love affair with its national sport, a drama centred on a few famous acres in central Cardiff known throughout rugby as ‘the Arms Park.’ We wrote ‘The Arms Park, Heart of a Rugby Nation’ to celebrate this unique bond between place and people. Few if any stadia are as intertwined with national identity as the Arms Park is with Wales and we wanted to convey this 131 year relationship.
We tell the life story of the ground by following the roller-coaster ride Wales has been on during the last century and a quarter, where the nation’s fortunes have often been reflected in the events at the Arms Park. From the re-assertion of national identity when Wales’ coal trade and rugby team dominated the world , through world wars and economic collapse to resurgence and a new national confidence, Wales’ most famous piece of real estate has been at the heart of its nation and is one of the world’s truly iconic sporting venues.