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Dawn of a new era

THE all-new Aviva Stadium finally opens its doors today after Dubliners spent more than three years watching the shiny new spectacle grow from the dust of old Lansdowne Road.

The magnificent 50,000-seater stadium cost more than €400m to build, but is sure to be the pride of soccer and rugby fans for generations to come.

Groundsmen spent the last few days putting the finishing touches to the venue ahead of today's first match -- the O2 rugby challenge match between a Leinster-Ulster and a Connacht-Munster selection.

Fans of both Irish and English soccer will get the chance to sample the new venue when Manchester Utd come to town to play an Airtricity League XI selection next Wednesday.


And a week later, Giovanni Trapattoni's boys in green will christen the new venue when Ireland take on World Cup quarter-finalists Argentina in a friendly.

It's a far cry since the first rugby international was played on the site in 1878, and hard-pressed city hoteliers are hoping that the Aviva will bring some much-wanted trade.

An estimated €5m is expected be spent by rugby fans attending today's first game in the new stadium. All 50,000 seats quickly sold out when the IRFU charged just €10 per ticket.

Dubliners will also today get a chance to see their city from a new perspective with the opening of The Wheel Of Dublin in the docklands.

At a cost of €9 for a 13 minute ride in an enclosed capsule, you can see as far as Howth Head and the Dublin Mountains in the 60m-high ride.