Looking at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and anticipating the ever-nearing FIFA Soccer World Cup 2006, you cannot help but think of how this structure is coming to represent positive historical change in modern Germany. And yet, at the same time, it won’t stop reminding you of its dark and not-so-secret past.
Visitors often get a strong and strange dÃ?Â©jÃ?Â vu feeling when entering the stadium. And how could it not seem familiar? We’ve all been here before, in one way or another. Either we’ve seen the pictures in history class or watched the films on television. Those famous black and white images taken during the 1936 Olympics still have a certain haunting quality to them and whenever one walks through this structure it is undeniably recognizable as being the site of the 1936 Olympic Games – and a prime example of Hitler’s Nazi architecture.
And being that everything here and around you was originally constructed under Nazi dictatorship, the Olympic Stadium and Olympischer Platz have understandably had their share of controversy. These buildings are, after all, a historical manifestation of Adolf Hitler’s mad political dreams and will always produce a somewhat somber effect by being so.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they quickly decided to use the Olympic Games (already awarded to Germany in 1931) as a platform for propaganda. Then came World War II and the Games of 1936, in hindsight, took on the even uglier undertones then they produced before the war. These buildings suffered little damage during World War II – the Olympia Stadium is one of the few Nazi-built structures still intact and in use – and after the war, the United Kingdom used them as its headquarters during the military occupation and right on up until 1994.
Over the years, and in light of this historical legacy, many Germans have even expressed the wish to have the Olympic Stadium destroyed or let it crumble away “like the Coliseum in Rome”, but many years have mercifully passed between that ominous past and now and no one in Berlin would seriously suggest such a thing today. But in a bid to explain the Olympic Stadium’s dark side, there is now a permanent museum near the main entrance and dozens of informative, historical plaques throughout the venue.
The stadium is indeed a vast structure, now as back then. And even after the recent remodeling job, it retains a very imposing air. It has been modernized and refurbished and innovative new facilities. One of the most spectacular of these is the stadium’s beautiful, transparent roof. This magnificent and sleek 68 meter high U-shaped roof opens gracefully to the west and provides an impressive view to the Marathon Gate and the famous Glockenturm Bell Tower.
This ultra-modern touch, in contrast with the original 30s architecture, seems to emphasis the necessity of all the recent reconstruction work done. It was simply time to for this historic structure to meet the demands required of a modern stadium. And this was no trivial matter either, considering that the Olympic Stadium is anything but modern. After all, the final match of the FIFA World Cup 2006 will be played here exactly 70 years after the 1936 Summer Olympics.
The stadium now holds 76,000 fully covered seats, offers underground parking areas for over 600 cars and has 113 lounges – 78 on the ground floor, 20 near the cascade-shaped “stand of honor” and 15 so-called sky lounges in the so-called reporter ring. There are 2,000 VIP business seats available on the north and south sides of the stadium and the high-tech lighting system is capable of illuminating the playing field as if it were daylight – with no glare shadows.
This will also be relished after the World Cup 2006 is over. The Olympic Stadium also has a strong, local sporting tradition. It has historically been the home turf for the Berlin Hertha BSC soccer club and it is also where the Berlin Thunder American football club holds its games.
But the coming World Cup is the event that is one everyone’s minds these days. And the Berliners are very proud of the fact that their Olympic Stadium will be the place in which the opening and final match of this historic event will take place – dark past or not.