Some deep thoughts on The Berlin Olympic Stadium, by Stuart Weir
I approached the Berlin Olympic Stadium along Jesse Owens Allee, a poignant reminder of the stadium’s past. Owens, of course, won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.
Originally built for the 1936 games when it held around 100,000, the stadium is now part of the Olympiapark Berlin. Besides its use as an athletics stadium, the arena has built a footballing tradition. Since 1963, it has been the home ground of the Herta Berlin football (soccer) team. The stadium – renovated in 2004 – has hosted World Cup football matches in 1974 and 2006 and the 2011 Women’s World Cup. It also hosted the 2009 World Athletics Stadium. The Olympiastadion has a permanent capacity of 74,475 seats.
Earlier this year I visited the iconic MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) but was disappointed that the modernisation seemed to have ruined the stadium’s traditional architecture. The Berlin Olympiastadion is a modern stadium which has been sensitive to its past.
A few years ago I spoke to British high jumper, Dorothy Tyler, who took silver in the high jump at the 1936 games. As she explains the Olympics were a bit different in those days: “I remember arriving in Berlin and seeing nothing but Hitler youth and giant swastikas everywhere and finding that we were not going to the Olympic Village but to the women’s PE college, which was comfortable enough and with a training track, because women were not allowed in the Olympic Village! The only time we meet the British men during the games was if we saw them at the stadium. I remember speaking to Jesse Owens and got his autograph”.
Berlin has a past but it also has a present as we shall see this week.