The Olympic Stadium
Amsterdam



 

They say the four-yearly summer Olympics are the most prestigious sporting competition in the world, and when it comes down to pure numbers, it's difficult to argue against. The English 2018 World Cup bid for example has 12 venues to prepare compared to over 170 for the 2012 London Olympics, whilst 2012 will see 205 nations and 15,000 athletes compete in comparison to a mere 32 and 736 respectively. That said it's always been the World Cup I've favoured over the Olympics and viewing figures for TV seem to suggest many sports fans around the globe feel likewise. Still, it's difficult not to get carried away by the history and prestige that surrounds the Olympic tournaments, and a lot of it dates back to the 1928 games held in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands Olympic Committee had bid for the games several times before, losing out to Antwerp and Paris before hosting their one and only tournament to date in 1928, beating off Los Angeles as the only other city competing for it. The games were to be held in the nations largest city in the newly built Olympisch Stadion. Designed by architect Jan Wils in the 'Amsterdam School' style then it originally had a capacity of roughly 31,600 with covered accommodation on each side. Most notably, on the outside, stood the Marathon Tower. At 140ft tall, it introduced the idea of the Olympic Flame, which would be alight throughout the games. Other firsts established were the opening ceremony where Greece would head it following by the host nation last, a standard 400 metre track and also the 16 day format.

After the tournament, the stadium was most famous for hosting football, and having taken the unusual step of increasing its capacity afterwards (to 64,000 in 1937), then it became a regular venue for the Dutch national side, and also Ajax who had many a famous night there, including a 5-1 thrashing of Liverpool in 1966. Four years previously it was host to the European Cup Final between Benfica and Real Madrid (the Portuguese winning 5-3).

Despite facing demolition attempts in the late 1980s then it survived to the modern day, and starting in 1996 was refurbished into its present state, with the 1937 modifications removed, giving it a capacity now of just over 22,000. Included in the new plans was office space and cafes beneath the stands to make it more regularly used, whilst the area around it was developed with new housing. Whilst in Amsterdam during July 2010 then I made my way down to visit what is now listed as a national monument.

On arrival, the style it was built in might suggest a later build date than the 1920s. It looks far more akin to a 1950s/60s housing development, and a little 'municipal' in style from the outside. Inside and there is a single tier of seating raised from ground level, arching up around the ends where the cycle track used to be prior to its removal in the 90s. Both sides are covered with prop-cantilevered roofs, which raises an interesting point relating also to the exterior design and British architecture. It was another 30 years until British grounds would investigate using structures like this to improve views, with Archibald Leitch for example, as famous as he was, still building pitched roofs with their numerous supports long after the opening of this ground. Back on the outside, as well as the Marathon Tower, there also a number of statues. To the uninitiated, the athlete giving a salute outside the main entrance might suggest sinister connotations, however like the swastika, prior to WWII then it was a widely used symbol and common place at medal ceremonies.

For some pictures of how it used to look prior to removal, see here for Manchester United's visit in 1994. 






The Main Entrance


Roman Salute Athlete Statue


Rear of the Main Stand and Marathon Tower


Rear of the South Stand


Rear of the South Stand


Rear of the West Stand


Rear of the West Stand


Statue


Rear of the North Stand


The South Stand


The West Stand


The North Stand


The South Stand


The Main Stand


The North Stand



Amsterdam Olympic Stadium Panoramic
 





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