It's the roller-coaster roof, visible from miles around, that is the big giveaway. Manchester's £110m stadium, designed by Arup and Arup Associates, is Britain's answer to the Stade de France, north of Paris, completed in 1997. It has a similar lightweight canopy that swoops up and down over the stands in one almost continuous wave. Held up by nothing more than thread-like cables, this is structural gymnastics of the most exhilarating kind, vastly superior to the clunky steel trusses that conventionally support stadium roofs.

Also like the Stade de France, the City of Manchester Stadium combines a championship eight-lane running track with a football pitch – an attribute that still eludes Wembley's proposed replacement. Without the funds of a national stadium like Stade de France or Wembley, this dual function has been achieved in a cheap and cunning fashion.

Only three sides of the stadium have been constructed for the Commonwealth Games, which start in July. The oval running track protrudes at one end where the fourth permanent stand should be, and beyond that a temporary stand has been lashed up out of a forest of scaffolding poles and plywood decking. As soon as the 10-day games is over in August, contractor Laing will remove the track and replace the temporary stand with a permanent one to link up with the rest of the stadium.

At the same time, it will lower the pitch by 6 m depth and install another 13 rows of seating. As a result, fans will be able sit as close up as possible to the action on the football pitch. The new stand will also increase seating from 38,000 to 48,000 to serve as the permanent home of Manchester City Football Club. The one drawback, however, is that, unlike the Stade de France, which boasts retractable seating at the lowest level, Manchester's pitch conversion is irreversible.

The stadium's other big innovation – at least to the British scene – is the use of spiral ramps to feed large crowds in and out of the stadium safely. And with a gentle gradient of 1 in 12, it is accessible to wheelchair users.