The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is an Australian sports stadium located in Yarra Park, Melbourne, Victoria, and is home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. It is the 11th-largest stadium in the world, the largest in Australia, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, the largest stadium for playing cricket, and has the highest light towers at any sporting venue. The MCG is within walking distance of the city centre and is served by the Richmond railway station, Richmond, and the Jolimont railway station, East Melbourne. It is part of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct.
Internationally, the MCG is remembered as the centre piece stadium of both the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 2006 Common wealth Games and the 1992 Cricket World Cup. The open-air stadium is also one of the world's most famous cricket venues, with the well-attended Boxing Day Test match commencing on Boxing Day (26 December) each year. Throughout the winter, it serves as the home of Australian rules football, with at least one game (though usually more) held there each round. The stadium fills to capacity for the AFL Grand Final in late September.
The MCG, often referred to by locals as "The G", has also hosted other major events, including International Rules between the Australian Football League (AFL) and Gaelic Athletic Association, international Rugby union,State of Origin series (rugby league), FIFA World Cup qualifiers and International Friendly matches, serves as the finish line for the Melbourne Marathon and also hosts major rock concerts.
Until the 1970s, more than 120,000 people sometimes crammed into the venue – the record crowd standing at around 130,000 for a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in 1959, followed by 121,696 for the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Grandstand redevelopments and occupational health and safety legislation have now limited the maximum seating capacity to approximately 95,000 with an additional 5000 standing room capacity, bringing the total capacity to 100,024.
The MCG is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and was included on the Australian National Heritage Liston 26 December 2005. It is referred to within Victoria as the "Spiritual Home of Australian Sport".
Founded in November 1838 the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) selected the current MCG site in 1853 after previously playing at several grounds around Melbourne. The club’s first game was against a military team at the Old Mint site, at the corner of William and Latrobe Streets. Burial Hill (now Flagstaff railway station) became its home ground in January 1839, but the area was already set aside for Botanical Gardens and the club was moved on in October 1846, to an area on the south bank of the Yarra about where the Herald and Weekly Times building is today. The area was subject to flooding, forcing the club to move again, this time to a ground in South Melbourne.
It was not long before the club was forced out again, this time because of the expansion of the railway. The South Melbourne ground was in the path of Victoria’s first steam railway line from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). Governor La Trobe offered the MCC a choice of three sites; an area adjacent to the existing ground, a site at the junction of Flinders and Spring Streets or a ten-acre (about 4 hectares) section of the Government Paddock at Richmond next to Richmond Park.
This last option, which is now Yarra Park, had been used by Aborigines until 1835. Between 1835 and 1853 it was anagistment area for colonial troopers’ horses. In 1850 it was part of a 200-acre (81 ha) stretch set aside for public recreation extending from Governor La Trobe’s Jolimont Estate to the Yarra River. By 1853 it had become a busy promenade for Melbourne residents.
An MCC sub-committee chose the Richmond Park option because it was level enough for cricket but sloped enough to prevent inundation. That ground was located where the Richmond, or outer, end of the current MCG is now.
At the same time the Richmond Cricket Club was given occupancy rights to six acres (2.4 hectares) for another cricket ground on the eastern side of the Government Paddock.
At the time of the land grant the Government stipulated that the ground was to be used for cricket and cricket only. This condition remained until 1933 when the State Government allowed the MCG’s uses to be broadened to include other purposes when not being used for cricket.
In 1863 a corridor of land running diagonally across Yarra Park was granted to the Hobson’s Bay Railway and divided Yarra Park from the river. The area closest to the river was also developed for sporting purposes in later years including Olympic venues in 1956.