Its names come from Rungra Island in the Taedong River, upon which it is situated, and May Day, the international day celebrating labour and particularly celebrated among communists. Its scalloped roof features 16 arches arranged in a ring, and it is said to resemble a parachute or a magnolia blossom. It is not to be confused with the also large Kim Il-sung Stadium.
It hosts events on a main pitch sprawling across over 22,500 m² (242,200 ft²). Its total floor space is over 207,000 m² (2.2 million ft²) across eight stories, and the lobes of its roof peak at more than 60 m (197 ft) from the ground.
While the stadium is used for sporting events, it is more famous as the site of massive parades and shows celebrating Kim Il-sung and the Korean nation. In May of 2002 it was the site of the colossal and meticulously choreographed "Arirang" gymnastic and artistic performance in honor of Kim Jong-il's 60th birthday. The extravaganza involved some 100,000 participants—double the number of spectators— and was open to foreigners, a rare occurrence. Critics of the regime said the spectacle was an attempt to distract from the 2002 World Cup being co-hosted by South Korea shortly thereafter, and an effort to raise scarce hard currency.
It was also the venue in which Kim Jong-Il in 2000 entertained Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton and the highest ranking American official ever to visit North Korea.
The largest crowd to attend a professional wrestling card (190,000 on April 29, 1995) was present at May Day stadium; the card was promoted by Japan-based New Japan Pro Wrestling circuit and also included Western wrestlers from the American World Championship Wrestling promotion.