My first time in Berlin dates from May 2015. Until September 2021 it was my only time. I know it’s odd. The capital of Germany is a centre of history, culture, clubbing, gay culture. It should have been a standard annual getaway. Berlin is a modern, quirky city with a reputation for being hip and trendy. I took time to look back on this first visit – with Frank – in 2015.
I’m not sporty at all, although I do go to the gym. But I have visited quite a few Olympic sites in my life. Elizabeth Park in London, Sydney Olympic Park, Munich‘s Olympiapark, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and in 2015 Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
The Olympiastadion was originally built by Werner March for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. During the Olympics, the record attendance was thought to be over 100,000. Today the stadium is part of the Olympiapark Berlin.
Since renovations in 2004, the Olympiastadion has a permanent capacity of 74,475 seats and is the largest stadium in Germany for international football matches. The Olympiastadion is a UEFA category four stadium and one of the world’s most prestigious venues for sporting and entertainment events.
Besides its use as an athletics stadium, the arena has built a footballing tradition. Since 1963, it has been the home of the Hertha BSC. It hosted three matches in the 1974 FIFA World Cup. It was renovated for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, when it hosted six matches, including the final. The DFB-Pokal final match is held each year at the venue. The Olympiastadion Berlin served as a host for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup as well as the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final.
Berlin was to host the 1916 Olympic Games, but these were cancelled due to World War I raging.
In 1931, the International Olympic Committee selected Berlin to host the 11th Summer Olympics. Originally, the German government decided merely to restore the earlier Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) of 1916, with Werner March, son of original architect Otto March, to do this.
When the NSDAP came to power in 1933, they decided to use the Olympic Games in 1936 for propaganda purposes. With these plans in mind, Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of a great sports complex in Grunewald named the Reichssportfeld with a totally new Olympiastadion. Architect Werner March remained in charge of the project, assisted by his brother Walter.
Construction took place from 1934 to 1936. When the Reichssportfeld was finished, it was 132 hectares (330 acres). It consisted of (east to west): the Olympiastadion, the Maifeld (Mayfield, capacity of 50,000) and the Waldbühne amphitheater (capacity of 25,000), in addition to various places, buildings and facilities for different sports (such as football, swimming, equestrian events, and field hockey) in the northern part.
Werner March built the new Olympiastadion on the foundation of the original Deutsches Stadion, once again with the lower half of the structure recessed 12 metres (39.4 feet) below ground level.
The capacity of the Olympiastadion reached 110,000 spectators. It also possessed a special stand for Adolf Hitler and his political associates. At its end, aligned with the symmetrically-designed layout of the buildings of the Olympischer Platz and toward the Maifeld, was the Marathon Gate with a big receptacle for the Olympic Flame.
The eleventh Olympic Games took place from 1 to 16 August 1936. After 1936, another twenty major events were held at the Reichssportfeld, including the 1937 German football championship, the state reception for Benito Mussolini and various sports festivals. At the beginning of the World War II the Reichssportfeld, which was partially set below ground level, was converted to a bunker, a production site for detonators, a storage area for munitions, food and wine, and a back-up radio broadcasting site.
A history trail on the Olympic site has 45 panels in English and German offering a fascinating insight into the complex’s origins and development down the years, as well as information on the historical art works from the early years of the NS regime.
On event-free days, you can explore the impressive stadium itself, either with an audio guide or as part of a guided tour. On live tours, you can also visit sectors normally off-limits to the public, including the locker rooms, underground warm-up halls, and the VIP areas.
At the turn of the millennium, extensive modernisation work began while the sporting events continued. The lower ring was renovated and 13 luxury boxes were added to the upper ring. Today, the total capacity is 74,475 seats. On 1 August 2004, there was an official reopening ceremony for the Olympiastadion.
Potsdam & Berlin 2015
- BERLIN 2015 | Potsdam.
- BERLIN 2015 | Museum and memorials.
- BERLIN 2015 | Ostalgie.
- BERLIN 2015 | The Reichstag, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and Berlin Cathedral.
- BERLIN 2015 | Schloss Charlottenburg Palace.