Saturday, July 13, 2013

Berlin: Olympiastadion


Jesse Owens wins four gold medals for the USA!  Berlin was the site of the 1936 Summer Olympics, during the time that Germany was under Nazi control.  Hitler believed that the Germanic People were the most pure race and were thus superior to other races.  He hoped to use the games, which were awarded to Berlin prior to Nazi control in 1931, to show the world  the superiority of the Germanic Race.  In contrast to Hitler's belief, Jesse Owens, an African American Track and Field Athlete from the United States, considered inferior by the Nazi's because of his race, won four gold medals and was the most successful athlete at the 1936 games (The German athletes also fared well at the games).

Inside Olympiastadion 2013
There have been two stadiums on this site.  The first, Deutsches Stadion, was built by Otto March for the 1916 Summer Olympics, which were aborted because of the First World War.  Prior to the building of the first stadium, a horse-racing facility existed on the site.  When the International Olympic Committee named Berlin as the site of the 1936 Olympics, the German government planned to restore the original stadium and retained Otto's son, Werner, to do the restoration.  When the Nazi's came into power in Germany in 1933, they decided to use the Olympics as Propaganda and commissioned the building of a new stadium, called Reichssportfeld.  Werner March was still in charge of the project and was assisted by his brother, Walter March.

Roof of Olympiastadion 2013
Construction on Olympiastadion took place between 1934 and 1936.  It's capacity reached 110,000 spectators.  In 1998, there was much controversy over what to do with the the stadium.  Some wanted to tear it down and build a new stadium.  Others wanted to allow it to slowly crumble (similar to the Colosseum in Rome).  The final decision was to renovate the stadium.  The playing field was lowered and the lower tier of seating, built into the ground, was demolished and rebuilt.  During construction, the workers found an unexploded WWII bomb buried beneath a section of seating.  The reinauguration ceremonies were held on July 31st and August 1st 2004.  Currently the stadium is home to soccer team, Hertha BSC, and many concerts have also been held at the stadium.

Stadium entrance from inside the park
Marathon Gate and site of the Olympic flame
Next to the stadium is Maifeld (Mayfield).  Maifeld was created as a huge lawn that would be used for demonstrations, especially May Day demonstrations.  The total capacity of the field was 250,000 people (60,000) in the stands.  During the Olympics, the field was used for polo and equestrian events.  After the war, it was used by the British forces to celebrate The Queen's Official Birthday and for sports.  Maifeld became the home of the Berlin Cricket Club in 2012, and the day that we visited, there were cricket matches on the field.

Maifeld, Langemarck-Halle and the Bell Tower
The Bell Tower reaches high into the sky on the western end of the Reichssportfeld among the seating area of the Maifeld.  The entire city of Berlin can be observed from its peak.  The bell tower housed the Olympic Bell.  During WWII, Reichssportfeld was mostly untouched, but the Bell Tower was set on fire by the Soviets, who wished to destroy Nazi archives that were inside.  The British forces demolished it in 1947 but rebuilt the tower in 1962.  The bell fell 77 meters and is unable to sound.  Today it is displayed in front of the stadium and a replica is in its place in the tower.

Langemarck-Halle and the Bell Tower
Langemarck Hall sits beneath the seating area at Maifeld.  It was originally intended as memorial to young soldiers who died in WWI.

Inside Langemarck-Halle
The Forest Theatre, Waldbuene, which is used for concerts today, is currently closed to the public.  We got our only glimpse of the theatre from the top of the bell tower.  It was built in 1936 and was used for gymnastics competitions during the Olympics.  It seats up to 25,000 spectators and is used as one of Berlin's largest concert venues.

Waldbuene, among the forest
Equestrian Facility at Olympiastadion
Swimming Facility
Many statues, like this one, can be found at Olympiastadion
View of Olympiastadion from the Bell Tower, looking toward the Marathon Gate.  The Berlin skyline can be seen in the background.

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