Located on the outskirts of the capital city, Berlin’s Olympic Stadium was originally built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. These Olympic games took places during Hitler’s reign over Germany, making them one of the most infamous Olympics in history. Overtaken by Hitler, the games were mostly used for Nazi propaganda purposes. Because of this, the stadium and the park surrounding it today now have a very eerie and desolate feel. Though the stadium is now used as the home to Berlin’s Hertha BSC Football Team, it is still a major reminder of Germany’s Third Reich and the horrifying history behind it. To kickoff my Berlin series on my blog, throughout this post I’ll be writing all about this stadium, with info on its main sites, history, and significance.
The Olympic Park itself is located in West Berlin, just outside of the city’s downtown. If you head west from the Brandenburg Gate, while passing by the Berlin Victory Column, you will eventually end up at the stadium. The Olympic Stadium/Park is open from 10AM to 4PM in November to March, and 9AM to 7PM in April to October. Tickets to enter the area are €8 for adults, €5,50 reduced (seniors, disabled, students, etc), €4 for children, and €16 for families. Hour long themed tours (history, architecture or sport) are also available at the stadium for €160.
Olympic Gate / Olympisches Tor
Welcoming visitors into the complex since it was built are the Olympic Gates, consisting of two towers fifteen metres wide. The rings in between them symbolize the Olympic Games, which again took place at the park in 1936. The gates on the east side of the stadium are named after two German tribes, Bayern and Dreussen; along with the gates on the other side of the stadium, dedicated to Friesen, Sachsen, Franken, and Schawaben.
Olympic Stadium / Olympiastadion
Once you enter the gates, you are met with inarguably the main pull of the entire park – the actual stadium, of course! A stadium has stood on the site of the current one (or at least northeast of the site) since the early 1900s, with the original one being the German (Deutsches) Stadium (shown above!). The stadium of today, however, was built beginning in 1934 after Berlin was chosen to hold the 1936 Olympics. Hitler, the ruler of the country at the time, took this opportunity to magnify the event and use it to promote Nazism.
He ordered the building a much larger and very imposing stadium, with obvious inspiration from Rome’s Colosseum in its design. At the time of its construction, it was able to hold over 100,000 people, as well as an exclusively made stand for Hitler to watch the games from. The huge, striking stadium stood as a major symbol of Germany and the Nazi’s power towards the rest of the world. During the Olympics themselves, one of the most recognized events was the performance of African-American athlete Jesse Owens, who won four medals. As he was non-white, this upset and damaged Hitler and the Nazi’s racist theory of white supremacy. Another iconic event of these Olympics were the daily Nazi salutes that the crowd would have to perform throughout the games, as ordered by Hitler himself.
After the Second World War, and the destruction of Hitler and the Nazis, British forces occupied and controlled the entire stadium. Once the stadium was returned to a united Berlin, a debate went on about whether or not the stadium should be destroyed, rebuilt, or renovated. It ended up being renovated, and it is now the current home of Berlin’s football club, Hertha Berlin. Since its renovation it has also held many football related events, including three world cups.
Exploring the stadium nowadays, just over eighty years after it was ruled by the Nazis, is a very interesting experience. As I visited on an off-day, the stadium was near deserted, with only a few other tourists exploring it. With its huge size and imposing architecture, the stadium came off to me as very eerie and spooky – almost frightening.
Mayfield / Maifield & Bell Tower / Glockenturm
Located west of the stadium is the Mayfield, a huge lawn with a capacity of 250,000 specifically made for May Day celebrations (hence its name). It is dominated by its Bell Tower, a 77 metre tall tower originally built to hold the Olympic Bell (more on that later!). The tower was accidentally set on fire during WWII, and later rebuilt in the 60s. It currently serves as a great viewing platform from which to view beautiful panoramic views of the stadium, Berlin, and its surroundings.
The Swim Stadium, located north of the Olympic Stadium, was the host of all of the water related events of the 1936 Olympics – including diving, swimming, water polo, and the swimming portion of the triathlon. It is still in use today, as a summer bath open to the public.
Olympic Bell / Olympische Glocke
Originally located within the Bell Tower, the 9635kg Olympic Bell is now a memorial found south of the actual stadium. It survived the accidental fire of the Bell tower in the 40s, but suffered a long fall and cracked when the tower was demolished in the 60s.
Statues / Statuen
There are many iconic statues spread throughout the Olympic Park. On the east side of the stadium you’ll find the Discus Throwers and Relay Runner, both seven metres tall and by Karl Abiker. On the west side you’ll find the Goddess of Victory by Willy Meyers, along with the Horse Tamers by Josef Wakerles.
That brings us to the end of my post about Berlin’s Olympic Stadium! I hope you enjoyed. Right now I’m visiting my family and friends in Toronto, and during my time here I’m planning on working on some new blog posts about the city and even some cool films, so look out for those on here and on my youtube channel in the coming weeks. Have you visited Berlin, or more specifically its Olympic Stadium? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!