Stadium Merdeka

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Stadium Merdeka
ستاديوم مرديك
Stadium Merdeka Complete.jpg
LocationKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Public transit SBK17  Merdeka MRT station
 MR3  Maharajalela Monorail station
OwnerPermodalan Nasional Berhad
OperatorThe Merdeka Heritage Trust[1]
SurfaceGrass pitch, track
ScoreboardManual scoreboard
Broke ground25 September 1956
Opened30 August 1957
Construction cost2.3 million ringgit [2]
ArchitectStanley Edward Jewkes
Main contractorsK.C Boon and Cheah Co. Ltd
Lim Quee and Sons
Formerly Selangor FA
Formerly Malaysian national football team
Southeast Asian Games (1965, 1971, 1977)
Kuala Lumpur FA (occasional)

Stadium Merdeka (pronounced [stadiom mə(r).de.kə]; English: Independence Stadium) is a stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has significance as the site of the formal declaration of independence of the Federation of Malaya on 31 August 1957 and the first modern building of the new nation. The stadium is also the site of the proclamation of Malaysia in 16 September 1963.

Currently owned by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), the stadium has a lower and an upper terrace, with a total capacity of 40,000, as well as 14 tunnels entrance, a covered stand, 50 turnstiles and 4 floodlight tower.[3] The stadium was designed by American architect Stanley Jewkes, under the instruction of the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Upon its completion, the stadium holds the world record for the tallest prestressed floodlight towers and the biggest cantilever shell roofs. The stadium was also the largest stadium in the Southeast Asia at the time of completion.

The stadium was the principal venue in Kuala Lumpur for celebrations and sporting events until 1998 when the Bukit Jalil National Stadium was built for the 16th Commonwealth Games. Prior to that, the stadium was the home ground for the Malaysian national football team. The stadium witnessed the historic qualifying match of the 1980 Olympic Games, when the national football team qualified the Olympic Games for the first and only time. However, due to the boycott lead by America, the country did not participate in the final tournament. The stadium was also the venue for the Merdeka Tournement until 1995. Besides that, the stadium had hosted three out of the five Southeast Asian Games held in Kuala Lumpur. The stadium also hosted the fight between the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and British boxer Joe Bugner in 1975, prior to the Thrilla in Manila.[4] In 1975, the stadium also hosted the Hockey World Cup final between Pakistan and India.

The stadium is currently a national heritage building. In 2008, the Stadium Merdeka received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Excellence for Heritage Conservation owing to its cultural significance and embodiment of a unique independence declaration event.



Prior to the opening of Stadium Merdeka, there wasn't a professional stadium in Malaya, with the only stadium in Jalan Ampang ruined by the Japanese army in the World War II. After the war, the Football Association of Selangor (FAS) and the Football Association of Malaya (FAM) had proposed for a stadium to be built.[5] As Tunku was elected as president of the two associations in 1951, both associations fought hard to have a first-class stadium built in Malaya.[5]

In 1952, an ad-hoc committee was formed by the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Commissioners to study the proposal, and a report was released three months later.[5] Several proposals were also brought up to the Federal Legislative Council on this matter, including Tunku himself, but was blocked by the Council.[6] After the winning of the Alliance Party in the first general election in Malaya, Tunku, who was now the Chief Minister, started an advisory committee led by E.M. McDonald to study the possibility of building a stadium.[6] On 4 June 1956, a total of 160 proposal plan was submitted to the government.[7]

On 2 May 1956, Tunku and McDonald started looking for suitable sites for the stadium, one of the first places they visited was the Chin Woo stadium. While standing on the tower of the stadium, Tunku saw a few athletes practicing near the Coronation Park, and asked "Don't you think it would make an ideal spot for Stadium Merdeka?"[7] Although McDonald was concerned about the traffic congestion that might arise in the future, Tunku insisted that it was the perfect spot for the country's first stadium.

The site was a Chinese cemetery before it became the oldest golf course in Kuala Lumpur, which had been abandoned since 1921. The site was then later called "Coronation Park" when George VI was crowned as the King of United Kingdom.[8] Before it was decided to build a stadium on that site, several quarters were planned to be built on the site by the Royal Malaysia Police. The uneven ground of the site means that excavation work had to be carried out before it could be constructed. The construction of the stadium would also mean that a small part of the school ground of Victoria Institution would be acquired. Despite McDonald's efforts to persuade Tunku to choose another site for the stadium, Tunku insisted on building the stadium there.[7]

On 11 July, Tunku bought this up to the Legislative Council and gained permission from it. Four days later, the project was transferred to the Malayan Public Works Department.[7]


The stadium was constructed from 25 September 1956 to 21 August 1957, and was designed by the then Director of Public Works Department, Stanley Edward Jewkes.[9] Several engineers such as Lee Kwok Thye, Chan Sai Soo and Peter Low were also involved in the project. [10] The cornerstone of the stadium was laid by Tunku himself on 15 February 1957.[11]

Due to budget constraints, most of the construction materials were made locally, which meant that imported materials such as structural steels had to be avoided.[12] To ensure that the stadium would be finished in time, the designing was done by "fast-track"[13][14], which means that after each element of the design was finished, it was immediately constructed.

The stadium was constructed as an earthed amphitheatre, which means that a part of the stadium is below ground level. The excavated soil was then transferred to the site of Masjid Negara which was originally a valley and was subjected to flooding issues.[15][16] When the earthworks and excavation were completed, designs of the terrace seating had already been done, and the construction of it began immediately. At the same time, the designing of the covered stands, the upper terraces and the stairs were carried on by the architects.[17]

Two contractors were involved in the construction, Lim Quee for the construction of the main covered stands, while Boon & Cheah were responsible for the terrace and the tunnel entrances.[17] Besides designing the stadium, Stanley Jewkes was also responsible for the traffic planning around the stadium.[18] Other than Stanley, architect Edgar Green was also involved in the designing of the interior facilities such as the toilets and the canteen facilities of the restaurant. [19]

The stadium held two world records upon its completion: the tallest prestressed floodlight towers at 120 feet[12] and the biggest cantilever shell roofs.[20][21] The floodlight towers, constructed from Hume culvert pipes, was also the first prestressed tower in the world which was made from precast culvert pipe units.[12] Another interesting feat accomplished at the time is that all four towers were erected without using a crane.[22] The shell roof for the grandstand, made out of concrete, was chosen as it was both economically affordable and aesthetically beautiful. Although the strength of the cantilever roofs were tested before the ceremony, Stanley was concerned that the roof might be unable to withstand the vibrations caused by the firing of the cannons during the ceremony, luckily the event went on well.[23][13]

Engineer Lee Kwok Thye credited the Kongsi Woman, also known as Lai Sui Mui [a] for their role in the construction. The women were responsible for carrying concrete buckets from the ground up to the structures being constructed, where it was then poured into the framework.[15]

They come to the site in black clothes, usually on bicycles. Their sleeves were extra long so that they could use them as gloves. They wore big straw hats with a hood. There were big gangs of them, each carrying two small buckets of concrete that was premixed at ground level. They walked up a ramp to take them right up to the top of the construction. A man would be up there to receive the concrete, pour it in, they’d return, and then continue in a chain system.

— Lee Kwok Thye[24]

Opening and the declaration of independence[edit]

The stadium was completed on 21 August 1957, while the opening ceremony was held on 30 August 1957, a day before the country declared independence. The opening ceremony was opened by Tunku Abdul Rahman, which was witnessed by over 15,000 spectators, including foreign athletes.[25] It was also Tunku himself who placed the foundation stone on 15 February 1957. The ceremony includes performances by 1000 students, each wearing a white T-shirt and shorts only, and none of them wore a proper pair of shoe.[26]

On 31 August 1957, power was transferred from the British Empire to the newly independent Malayan government.[b] Tens of thousands of people crowded into the stadium, which was built specifically for this occasion. The ceremony was attended by Duke of Gloucester, representing the Queen of United Kingdom, the Malay rulers of the nine states [c], the last High Commisioner of Malaya Sir Donald Mac Gillivray, foreign dignitaries, members of the federal cabinet and Tunku Abdul Rahman himself.[27] Following the handover of the instrument of the independence from Prince Henry to Tunku, the prime minister read out the Declaration of Independence, followed by the iconic seven shouts of "Merdeka" by Tunku.[28] Following that, the national anthem was sung for the first time by a multiracial choir lead by Tony Fonseka,[29] while the national flag was raised by Oliver Cuthbert Samuel.[30] The ceremony was continued with an azan call and a thanksgiving prayer, as well as a gun salute.[27] A mass drill were also performed by the students on the event[31]

Plans for demolition[edit]

The role of the stadium as the principal venue for celebrations and sporting events in Kuala Lumpur was replaced by the Bukit Jalil National Stadium built in the mid-1990s.

The stadium and its land were given to United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) which had intended to redevelop the land into a RM1 billion entertainment and office complex.[32] In exchange, the company was required to build seven other stadiums in other locations. However, the company did not proceed with the redevelopment due to public outcry and the company's financial difficulties due to the late 1990s Asian economic crisis. The stadium was now owned by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB).

Several options were suggested following the acquirement of the site by PNB, such as redeveloping the stadium for smaller sporting activities, building a sport museum at the site, or relocate it to another site.[33] Nonetheless, the stadium remained as a site for sporting events and concert until this day.


In 2007, the stadium underwent massive renovations to restore its 1957 look. With that, the 45,000-capacity stadium was reduced to 20,000, which meant that several of the upper terrace blocks built over the years were demolished. [34] The decision to reduce the capacity of the historic stadium was justified to ensure the integrity of the stadium as it was in 1957, with the Stadium Negara and the Chin Woo Stadium having the capacity to hold larger events. Besides that, the entire stadium was to be decorated as the state it was when Tunku proclaimed independence, which included the word "Merdeka" written in the stadium and the original seating arrangements of the Malay Rulers, the Queen's representatives and officers. The paintworks, main pavilion, two VIP rooms and the changing rooms were to be restored to its original state as well.[35][36] The project, which costs RM2 million, was lead by PNB.

Merdeka PNB 118[edit]

In December 2009, it was announced that PNB would be building a hundred-floored skyscraper on the site between Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara.[37][38] The project was officially launched by the then Prime Minister Najib Razak in September 2016. [39] Formerly named as the Warisan Merdeka, the project was estimated to be finished by 2021.[40] The tower, when completed, would be the second tallest skyscraper in Asia and the fifth in the world.[41] The tower would include 83 levels of office space, 16 levels of luxury hotel, and the rest of the floors would be occupied observation deck, restaurants, sky lobby, podium and amenities.[42][43] Besides that, the project would also include a shopping mall and residental areas.[44]

The tower was built on the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (also known as Merdeka Park), which was built alongside the Stadium Merdeka. Such a move was criticized as the park was supposed to act as a heritage buffer zone.[45] Plus, the park was also a recreation park for the residents in Kuala Lumpur for generations.[46] The project might as well worsen the traffic congestion of that area. There was also concern that the schools nearby might be affected by the project and was forced to be relocated.[47]

Sporting events and concerts[edit]

The Stadium Merdeka, operated by Perbadanan Stadium Merdeka (1963–1998)[48], was a venue for many major sporting events. These included the football matches for Selangor FA from 1957 until 1994, the fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner on 1 July 1975, and the 1977 Southeast Asian Games and the annual Merdeka Football Tournament (Pesta Bola Merdeka). The Malaysia Cup final between Sarawak and Brunei was held there in 1999 which resulted in a Brunei win 2–1.

The Merdeka Stadium also hosted major concerts. Michael Jackson's HIStory World Tour filled the stadium to capacity (Jackson performed two sold out concerts on 27 and 29 October 1996, respectively, in front of 55,000 people each night.) [d][49]

Events after 2009[edit]

With the restoration of the Stadium Merdeka, the 45,000-capacity stadium was reduced to 20,000, which meant that several of the upper terrace blocks built over the years were demolished. The decision to reduced the capacity of the historic stadium was justified to ensure the integrity of the stadium as it was in 1957, with the Stadium Negara and the Chin Woo Stadium having the capacity to hold larger events. In February 2015, Kuala Lumpur FA returned to Stadium Merdeka for the first time in 17 years for the team's opening Premier League match of the season against Sabah. The last international match played at the stadium saw the Malaysian team drawing 1-1 with Cambodia in October 2001.[50]

Heritage conservation[edit]

In February 2003, Stadium Merdeka was named a national heritage building. In 2007, Merdeka Stadium underwent restoration to its original 1957 condition as part of Malaysia's 50th-anniversary plans to relive the moment when Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed independence there. The restoration was completed by December 2009. The restoration received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific 2008 Award of Excellence for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Events hosted in the stadium[edit]


The stadium is served by the Maharajalela Monorail station, situated next to one of the stadium's west exits. The station is situated between Tun Sambathan station and the Hang Tuah station. The stadium is also indirectly served by the Merdeka MRT station. The station is situated in between Pasar Seni MRT station and Bukit Bintang MRT station on the Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line. Although its name refers to the stadium, the station serves the adjacent Stadium Negara instead.

The stadium can also be reached by bus. Located near the stadium, Pasar Seni bus hub is the terminating stop for a dozen of bus lines in the Klang Valley.[52]


  • Existing Ticketing Booths
  • VIP Holding room
  • Changing Rooms


See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Which means "mud girls" in Cantonese.
  2. ^ At the time of its independence, Malaya excluded Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah.
  3. ^ Which are Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
  4. ^ This was the only time when Michael Jackson came to Malaysia.


  1. ^ National Sports Complex Archived 2007-08-21 at the Wayback Machine. Cuti Malaysia. Retrieved 17 August 2007.
  2. ^ {cite web |url= |title=Malaysia stadium restored to glory |date=2008-12-05 |publisher=Dawn|access-date=2020-09-18}}
  3. ^ "Siri Pakejan Maklumat Bangunan Bersejarah: Stadium Merdeka" (PDF). National Library of Malaysia. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  4. ^ Seng, Alan Teh Leam (2018-07-29). "Magic of Muhammad Ali | New Straits Times". NST Online. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  5. ^ a b c Haji Nawang 1999, p. 9.
  6. ^ a b Haji Nawang 1999, p. 10.
  7. ^ a b c d Haji Nawang 1999, p. 11.
  8. ^ Mohd Bakri Jaffar. Azmy Morsidi. (2007). Untukmu Malaysia : sempena 50 tahun merdeka : 25,000 kilometer : menjejaki warisan kita : himpunan gezet monumen dan bangunan bersejarah. Ultimate Print. ISBN 978-983-43540-0-8. OCLC 762101071.
  9. ^ Lai 2018, p. 556.
  10. ^ Lai 2018, p. 541.
  11. ^ "Sukan Stadium". Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  12. ^ a b c Lai 2018, p. 587.
  13. ^ a b "【情迷热带建筑】他们 让历史再活一次,解码国家建筑". Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  14. ^ Lai 2018, p. 573.
  15. ^ a b "'The Merdeka Interviews' spotlights architects, engineers and artists who shaped Malaysia post-independence". Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  16. ^ Lai 2018, p. 139.
  17. ^ a b Lai 2018, p. 579.
  18. ^ Lai 2018, p. 575.
  19. ^ Lai 2018, p. 581.
  20. ^ Lai 2018, p. 585.
  21. ^ "Designing for Unity In Merdeka Era Architecture | Tun Razak Exchange". Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  22. ^ Lai 2018, p. 589.
  23. ^ Lai 2018, p. 586.
  24. ^ Lai 2018, p. 636.
  25. ^ "HIDS - Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah". Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  26. ^ " - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  27. ^ a b "Arkib Negara Malaysia - Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan Tanah Melayu". 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  28. ^ Aziz, Tunku Abdul (2020-08-31). "What a great moment for Malaya | New Straits Times". NST Online. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  29. ^ "The man behind the first choir to sing Negaraku | The Star". Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  30. ^ "拼凑.记忆 Memories Puzzle | Episode 4: Negaraku大事记". Youtube. 8TV. 1 Sep 2019. Retrieved 18 Sep 2020.
  31. ^ Amir, Azdee (2020-08-31). "'We pulled off a splendid show' [NSTTV] | New Straits Times". NST Online. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  32. ^ Lim Kit Siang. Merdeka Stadium and National Stadium - the fifth injustice and disservice in a week to the memory and legacy of Tunku on birthday centenary commemoration - Cabinet and not PNB should designate them national heritage and monuments. DAP Malaysia. 12 February 2003. Retrieved 17 August 2007.
  33. ^ Lai 2018, p. 166.
  34. ^ "Merdeka Stadium set for trip to historic past | The Star". Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  35. ^ "耗200万回到1957年 默迪卡体育馆将恢复原貌". Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  36. ^ "Bringing back the glory of a stadium | The Star". Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  37. ^ "慕尤丁:由国投兴建.100层摩天楼坐落隆市中心". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  38. ^ "默迪卡体馆拟建摩天楼.陈国伟斥埋没史迹". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  39. ^ "Najib launches Warisan Merdeka project | The Star". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  40. ^ "Construction of PNB's Merdeka 118 tower reaches 111 floors | New Straits Times". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  41. ^ "Warisan Merdeka will be a national icon - PM | Astro Awani". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  42. ^ "Merdeka 118 - Arup". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  43. ^ "Projek Merdeka 118". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  44. ^ Community, B. I. M. "Merdeka 118 the skyscraper of Malaysia 100% BIM | BIMCommunity". BIM Community. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  45. ^ "吉隆坡.王建民:已列文化遗产缓冲区.反对东姑公园建118大楼". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  46. ^ "吉隆坡.集体发声救隆文化古迹". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  47. ^ "古迹变瓦砾建摩天楼". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  48. ^ "Laporan Tahunan Perbadanan Stadium Malaysia 2017" (PDF). Perbadanan Stadium Malaysia. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  49. ^ Chua, Dennis (2020-08-07). "NST175: 'Meeting M.J. in '96 was surreal' | New Straits Times". NST Online. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  50. ^ "Stadium Merdeka to be home again for Kuala Lumpur football team". The Star Online. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  51. ^ Win tickets to Mariah Carey's concert in KL. The Star Online. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  52. ^ "Bus - Rapid KL | MyRapid Your Public Transport Portal". Retrieved 2020-09-19.


Coordinates: 3°8′20.71″N 101°42′2.09″E / 3.1390861°N 101.7005806°E / 3.1390861; 101.7005806

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