Wave (audience)

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Stadium crowd performing "the wave" at the Confederations Cup 2005 in Frankfurt Confed-Cup 2005 - Laolawelle.JPG
Stadium crowd performing "the wave" at the Confederations Cup 2005 in Frankfurt
Australia vs Ireland international rules game 2014 at Subiaco Oval crowd wave

The wave (known as a Mexican wave in the English-speaking world outside North America) or stadium wave is an example of metachronal rhythm achieved in a packed stadium when successive groups of spectators briefly stand, yell, and raise their arms. Immediately upon stretching to full height, the spectator returns to the usual seated position.

English-speaking world Countries and regions where English is everyday language and people (or peoples) who speak English

Over 2 billion people speak English, making English the largest language by number of speakers, and the third largest language by number of native speakers. With 300 million native speakers, the United States of America is the largest English-speaking country. As pictured in the pie graph below, most native speakers of English are Americans.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Metachronal rhythm sequential action by cilia

A metachronal rhythm or metachronal wave refers to wavy movements produced by the sequential action of structures such as cilia, segments of worms or legs. These movements produce the appearance of a travelling wave.


The result is a wave of standing spectators that travels through the crowd, even though individual spectators never move away from their seats. In many large arenas the crowd is seated in a contiguous circuit all the way around the sport field, and so the wave is able to travel continuously around the arena; in discontiguous seating arrangements, the wave can instead reflect back and forth through the crowd. When the gap in seating is narrow, the wave can sometimes pass through it. Usually only one wave crest will be present at any given time in an arena, although simultaneous, counter-rotating waves have been produced. [1]

Reflection (physics) Change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated

Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected. Mirrors exhibit specular reflection.

Origins and variations


While there is general disagreement about the precise origin of the wave, most stories of the phenomenon's origin suggest that the wave first started appearing at North American sporting events during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Krazy George Henderson perfected the wave at National Hockey League games, followed later by the earliest available video documentation of a wave, which he led on October 15, 1981, at a Major League Baseball game in Oakland, California. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] This wave was broadcast on TV, and George has used a videotape of the event to bolster his claim as the inventor of the wave. [2] [3] On October 31, 1981, a wave was created at a UW football game against Stanford at Husky Stadium in Seattle, and the cheer continued to appear during the rest of that year's football season. [5] Although the people who created the first wave in Seattle have acknowledged Krazy George's wave at a baseball stadium, they claimed to have popularized the phenomenon.

Krazy George Henderson American cheerleader

Krazy George Henderson is a professional cheerleader who claims to be the creator of the Mexican wave.

National Hockey League North American professional ice hockey league

The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America, currently comprising 31 teams: 24 in the United States and 7 in Canada. The NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901, respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the major league clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Krazy George believes that the wave originally was inspired by accident when he was leading cheers at an Edmonton Oilers National Hockey League game at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His routine was to have one side of the arena jump and cheer, then have the opposite side respond. One night in late 1980, there was a delayed response from one section of fans, leading to them jumping to their feet a few seconds later than the section beside them. The next section of fans followed suit, and the first wave circled Northlands Coliseum of its own accord. [8] In The Game of Our Lives, a 1981 book about the Oilers' 1980-81 season, journalist Peter Gzowski described this routine, which did not yet have a name but was already a standard in Krazy George's repertoire: "He will start a cheer in one corner and then roll it around the arena, with each section rising from its seat as it yells." [2]

Edmonton Oilers Hockey team of the National Hockey League

The Edmonton Oilers are a professional ice hockey team based in Edmonton, Alberta. They are members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Northlands Coliseum Indoor arena in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Northlands Coliseum, or simply the Coliseum, is a now-disused indoor arena located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, situated on the north side of Northlands. It was used for sports events and concerts, and was home to the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The arena opened in 1974, and was later known as Edmonton Coliseum, Skyreach Centre, and Rexall Place, before returning to the Northlands Coliseum name in summer 2016.

The 1980–81 Edmonton Oilers season was the Oilers' second season in the NHL, and they finished with 74 points, a 5-point improvement from their 1st season.

University of Washington

Robb Weller, a cheerleader at the University of Washington from 1968 to 1972 and later Entertainment Tonight co-host, indicated in September 1984 that the school's early 1970s cheerleading squad developed a version of the wave that went from the bottom to top, instead of side to side, as a result of difficulties in getting the generally inebriated college audience members to timely raise and lower cards:

Robb Weller is an American game show host and television personality and producer.

University of Washington Public research university in Seattle, Washington, United States

The University of Washington is a public research university in Seattle, Washington.

<i>Entertainment Tonight</i> American entertainment television news series from CBS Television Distribution

Entertainment Tonight is an American first-run syndicated entertainment television newsmagazine that is distributed by CBS Television Distribution throughout the United States.

Actually ...there were two Waves. I was a cheerleader at the University of Washington from 1968 to 1972 when we started the first Wave. We tried to have card tricks but the kids would imbibe too much and the card tricks would get all goofed up; then we'd try card tricks with the kids using their bodies as cards and that wouldn't work. Finally we tried a Wave in the student section and it caught on but that Wave was different from this Wave. It would go from the bottom to top instead of side to side. [9]

The first wave at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium occurred on Halloween 1981, [10] [11] [12] at the prompting of Dave Hunter (Husky band trumpet player) and the visiting alumni cheerleader Weller. [13]

University of Michigan

In the early fall of 1983, the Michigan Wolverines played the Huskies in Seattle and brought the wave back to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. A letter to the sports editor of The New York Times claimed, [14] "There are three reasons why the wave caught on at Michigan Wolverine games: It gave the fans something to do when the team was leading its opponent by 40 points, it was thrilling and exciting to see 105,000 people in the stands moving and cheering, and Bo Schembechler asked us not to do it." The fans responded to his request by doing more waves, including "Silent Waves" (standing and waving arms without cheering), "Shsh Waves" (replacing the cheering with a "shshing" sound), the "Fast Wave", the "Slow Wave", and two simultaneous waves traveling in opposite directions. The following spring, fans who had enjoyed the wave in Ann Arbor introduced it to the nearby Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The Tigers won baseball's World Series that year and appeared on many televised games throughout 1984, so people all over the US saw it.

Global broadcasts

1984 Olympic football final

The wave was broadcast internationally during the 1984 Olympic football final between Brazil and France on August 11, when it was done among the 100,000 in attendance at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena. [15]

1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico

The 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico was broadcast to a global audience, and the wave was popularized worldwide after featuring during the tournament. [16] [17] [18] The finals in Mexico was the first time that most people living outside North America had seen the phenomenon. As a result, English speakers outside of North America call the phenomenon a "Mexican wave". [18] [17] In Germany, Italy, and other countries the wave is called "la ola" (or simply ola) from the Spanish word for "wave", [19] while in Portuguese-speaking countries, such as Brazil, it is alternatively translated to a onda, more commonly [o] ondão (augmentative) or simply onda, but a ola is also used.

Current appearances

Mexican wave performed at the 2013 Big Day Out music festival in Sydney, Australia Big Day Out (8392285402).jpg
Mexican wave performed at the 2013 Big Day Out music festival in Sydney, Australia

Today, the wave is often seen during sports events, sometimes during a lull in the action on the field when the spectators want to amuse themselves. There is some controversy as to when the wave is appropriate to perform during a sporting event. [20] Many fans feel that the wave should not be performed in important situations during the game.

Prior to the redevelopment of the Melbourne Cricket Ground between 2002 and 2006, spectators seated in the Members' Stand (reserved for members of the Melbourne Cricket Club) would not participate in a Mexican wave, and would be booed by other spectators at the ground, before the wave would resume on the other side of the stand. [21] Sociologist John Carroll described the practice of "booing the Members" as dismissive of any claim to authority or superior social status on the members' part, although good-natured and based on the egalitarian nature of watching sports. [22] (As a postscript to the "booing the Members" phenomenon, even when the Members stand was closed due to the reconstruction work, the crowd would still boo, despite the Members' stand being completely empty. When Mexican waves were banned (see below), large sections of the Members participated in the protest waves.) Such a feature is also observed at Lord's, where the Members in the pavilion rarely participate, to the boos of the crowd.

Cricket Australia formally banned the wave at home games in 2007 on the grounds that liquids and other objects thrown in the air during the wave posed a danger. [23] The move was not well-received and in some cases served to increase the prevalence of the wave at those games, such as in one game when Adam Gilchrist, the Australian wicketkeeper, participated in the banned wave from the playing field. The ban continues to be intermittently imposed and lifted by Cricket Australia and Australian police.


In 2002, Tamás Vicsek of the Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary along with his colleagues, analyzed videos of 14 waves at large Mexican football stadiums, developing a standard model of wave behavior (published in Nature ). He found that it takes only the actions of a few dozen fans to trigger a wave. Once started, it usually rolls in a clockwise direction at a rate of about 12 m/s (40 ft/s), or about 22 seats per second. At any given time the wave is about 15 seats wide. These observations appear to be applicable across different cultures and sports, though details vary in individual cases. [24]


During the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, an event hosted comedy TV show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, about 210,000 people participated in a wave led by MythBusters hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. [25]

On 23 June 2019, during the Rocket League Championship Series (video game e-sports) Season 7 Finals at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the audience set a new record for a longest continuous wave lasting for 28 minutes and 35 seconds. [26] The previous record was 17 minutes and 14 seconds set by Tube and their fans at a concert at the Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan on 23 September 2015. [27]

Related Research Articles

Stadium Place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events

A stadium is a place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or stage either partly or completely surrounded by a tiered structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.

Arena AufSchalke stadium in the city of Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Arena AufSchalke[aˌʁeːna ʔaʊfˈʃalkə] is a football stadium in Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It opened on 13 August 2001, as the new home ground for Bundesliga club FC Schalke 04.

Husky Stadium stadium at the University of Washington

Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium is an outdoor football stadium in the northwest United States, located on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Alamodome Multi-purpose domed stadium in San Antonio, Texas, United States

The Alamodome is a 64,000-seat multi-purpose stadium in San Antonio, Texas. It is located on the southeastern fringe of downtown San Antonio. The facility opened on May 15, 1993, having been constructed at a cost of $186 million.

An all-seater stadium is a sports stadium in which every spectator has a seat. This is commonplace in professional association football stadiums in nations such as the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Netherlands. Most association football and American football stadiums in the United States and Canadian Football League stadiums in Canada are all-seaters, as are most baseball and track and field stadiums in those countries. A stadium that is not an all-seater has areas for attendees holding standing-room only tickets to stand and view the proceedings. Such standing areas were known as terraces in Britain. Stands with only terraces used to dominate the football attendance in the UK. For instance, the South Bank Stand behind the southern goal at Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C., had a maximum of 32,000 standing attenders, while the rest of the stadium hosted a little bit less than that.

Turf Moor stadium

Turf Moor is a football stadium in Burnley, Lancashire, England. It is the home ground of Premier League club Burnley Football Club, who have played there since moving from its Calder Vale ground in 1883. This unbroken service makes Turf Moor the longest continuously used ground of any of the 49 teams which have played in the Premiership. The stadium, which is situated on Harry Potts Way, named so after the club's longest serving manager, has an official capacity of 21,944, all seated. It was one of the last remaining stadiums in England to have the players' tunnel and dressing rooms behind one of the goals, until it was covered for seating in time for the 2014–15 Premier League season and rebuilt between the David Fishwick and James Hargreaves stand. The ground originally consisted of just a pitch and the first grandstand was not built until 1885. Six years after this, the "Star" stand was erected and terracing was later added to the ends of the ground. After the Second World War, the stadium was redeveloped with all four stands being rebuilt. During the 1990s, the ground underwent further refurbishment when the Longside and Bee Hole End terraces were replaced by all-seater stands. Currently, the four stands at Turf Moor are the James Hargreaves Stand, the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, the Bob Lord Stand and the Cricket Field Stand.

Brøndby Stadium football stadium

The Brøndby Stadium is a football stadium in Brøndbyvester, Brøndby Municipality, Denmark. Opened in 1965, it is the home ground of Brøndby IF. The stadium has a capacity of 28,000, including 23,400 seats. It has hosted Denmark national team matches three times.

MCH Arena football stadium

The MCH Arena is an association football stadium situated in the south of Herning, Denmark, that is part of MCH Messecenter Herning complex and owned by MCH Group A/S. It has been the home ground of FC Midtjylland since March 2004. An integrated part of the arena is a main building housing the club's administration and offices for the official fan club, and includes player and referee facilities, a restaurant, a VIP lounge, press and sky boxes, and a club shop. The total capacity during domestic matches is 11,432 spectators with 7,070 seatings making it the 9th largest football stadiums in Denmark. At international FIFA and UEFA matches, the capacity of the four covered single-tiered stands is reduced to 9,430, when the terraces at the north and south stands are converted to an all-seater mode. The stadium's current attendance record of 11,763 spectators dates back to a 2017–18 Danish Superliga match on 11 November 2007, when FC Midtjylland tied 2–2 against FC Copenhagen.

Bleacher Creatures

The Bleacher Creatures are a group of fans of the New York Yankees who are known for their strict allegiance to the team and their merciless attitude to opposing fans. The group's nickname was used for the first time by New York Daily News columnist Filip "Flip" Bondy during the 1990s, and then he spent the 2004 season sitting with the Creatures for research on his book about the group, Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium, which was published in 2005.

RZD Arena football stadium in Moscow, Russia

RZD Arena is a football stadium in Moscow, Russia. Formerly known as Lokomotiv Stadium, it is the home stadium of Lokomotiv Moscow and was the home ground of the Russian national team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification matches. The stadium was reconstructed in 2002 and holds 27,320 people, all seated. The reconstruction of the stadium was funded by the Russian Transportation Ministry at a cost of $150–170 million.

Card stunt

Card stunts are a planned, coordinated sequence of actions performed by an audience, whose members raise cards that, in the aggregate, create a recognizable image. The images they create can range widely and, through careful planning, the same cards can create a number of different images by systematically changing how the cards are held up. Although card stunts are now performed at a variety of events ranging from sports to political rallies, the card stunt is closely associated with American football, particularly college football, as well as football (soccer) where it can form part of a tifo. The North Korean mass games Arirang Festival, however, were the first to extend the card stunt to an art form, using flip-book cards to produce enormous hour-long animated sequences.

Schwarzwald-Stadion Football stadium

Schwarzwald-Stadion is a football stadium in Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is currently the home of Bundesliga team SC Freiburg. The stadium holds 24,000 spectators and was built in 1953. For many years it was called the Dreisamstadion, situated near the river Dreisam.

Feethams sports venue

Feethams was a football and cricket ground in Darlington, England. It was the home of Darlington F.C. for from 1883 to 2003 until the club moved into a new stadium on the outskirts of Darlington, and also hosted county cricket matches. The football ground was demolished in 2006, while the cricket ground still remains in use.

Beer snake

A beer snake, super snake, or cup snake is the stacking of numerous plastic beer cups to form a "snake." Beer snakes are most commonly found at sporting events that are played out over many hours, such as cricket. Some snakes have been reported in the media as being up to 175 m long. They are typically formed during breaks in play: for example, when the fourth Test of the Pakistani cricket team in England in 2006 tour at The Oval was halted after ball tampering allegations, a large beer snake was constructed in the OCS stand.

Batters eye Section of a ballpark

The batter's eye or batter's eye screen is a solid-colored, usually dark area beyond the center field wall of a baseball stadium, that is the visual backdrop directly in the line of sight of a baseball batter, while facing the pitcher and awaiting a pitch. This dark surface allows the batter to see the pitched ball against a sharply contrasted and uncluttered background. Its purpose is the safety and hitting success of the batter. The use of a batter's background has been standard in baseball since at least the late 19th century. The batter's eye performs the same role at a baseball venue as the sight-screen does at a cricket venue, except that a cricket sight-screen is usually white in order to contrast with the dark red cricket ball. Alternatively a black screen is used to contrast the white Limited Overs cricket ball.

Multi-purpose stadium type of stadium

Multi-purpose stadiums are a type of stadium designed to be easily used by multiple types of events. While any stadium could potentially host more than one type of sport or event, this concept usually refers to a specific design philosophy that stresses multifunctionality over specificity. It is used most commonly in Canada and the United States, where the two most popular outdoor team sports – football and baseball – require radically different facilities. Football uses a rectangular field, while baseball is played on a diamond and large outfield. This requires a particular design to accommodate both, usually an oval. While building stadiums in this way means that sports teams and governments can share costs, it also imposes some challenges.

Bay 13 is a section of tiered seating at the Melbourne Cricket Ground that occupies part of the Great Southern Stand behind the slips for a right-handed batsman, usually where third man is fielding. It is well known in the cricket world as a centre for rowdy spectators to congregate at the cricket and participate in practices such as Mexican waves, beach ball throwing and other disorderly conduct, often including abuse chanting towards opposition players.

Terrace (stadium) traditional standing area of a sports stadium

A terrace or terracing in sporting terms refers to the traditional standing area of a sports stadium, particularly in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. A terrace is a series of concrete steps which are erected for spectators to stand on.

Central Stadium (Yekaterinburg) football stadium

The Ekaterinburg Arena, is a multi-purpose stadium in the city of Yekaterinburg in Russia. It is the home ground of Russian Premier League football club FC Ural Yekaterinburg. The capacity of the stadium is just over 35,000, and might be reduced to 25,000 after the World Cup. It is one of 12 venues in 11 host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The stadium is the eastern-most among the 2018 World Cup venues, being the only venue that stands in Asian Russia.


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