The gymnasium was designed by Le Corbusier, commissioned by King Faisal as part of Iraq's bid to host the 1960 Olympics. Faisal was overthrown in 1958 and the project was abandoned. Saddam Hussein revived the project, Le Corbusier associate Georges-Marc Presente's firm hired to realize the project.
The project consists of an indoor stadium (3,000 seats) and an adjacent, open-air amphitheatre linked by an enormous sliding door which, when opened, integrates the two stadia. The plan of the indoor stadium is T-shaped. The building is surmounted by a dramatic, sloping, concave roof. A system of open, curved, sculptural ramps provides access to the various tiered seating areas. The ground floor of one wing of the T-shaped building, surrounded by the ramps on three sides, is devoted to circulation and service facilities including offices, a bar and a mechanical room. A curved, walled annex, used by the athletes for changing, is connected to the indoor stadium by a narrow corridor. The open-air, crescent-shaped amphitheatre faces the rear of the indoor stadium where the indoor gymnasium is located. On this back wall the sliding door can be opened so that the indoor court and the outdoor athletic field become integrated. The centre is constructed of reinforced concrete. The main roof, spanning 34 metres, is constructed with a steel truss, covered with corrugated aluminium sheets. The trusses are exposed in the interior and house the mechanical ducts.