October 18, 2019
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Photograph of the week: Munich Olympic Stadium, Germany

The Munich Olympic Stadium is so much more interesting than just a place for 22 grown men or women to kick around a round, synthetic-leather-clad ball. It’s true that this footie-mad nation continues to use the stadium as a ground zero of sorts to feed their passion for the beautiful game. It has, after all, played host to any number of major football events and matches, including the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final, the 1988 UEFA Euro Final, the European Cup Finals in 1979, 1993 and 1997, and the 2012 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final, to name just a few.

But did you know that the stadium, built between 1968 and 1972 for the 1972 Summer Olympics, was constructed in a pit made by bombings during World War II? The pit is said to have made construction easier, which was, no doubt, somewhat of a relief given the magnificent scale and scope of German architect Günther Behnisch and engineer Frei Otto’s visionary masterpiece.

What’s more, did you know that the architects took inspiration for the construction of the sprawling, light-as-air, tent-like roof, from spiderwebs and diatoms (a major group of ocean algae)?

This same spectacular roof, which covers not only the main grandstand of the Olympic Stadium but extends across the Olympic Hall, the Olympic Pool and the paths connecting the buildings, was also nearly the reason Behnisch & Partner were not awarded the contract for the stadium. The selecting panel deemed the idea too risky and unfeasible, and initially threw their bid out. In the end, though, beauty and imagination won the day and they were awarded the contract. The result? A city landmark, and architectural sensation, which continues to sell out to tens of thousands (69,250 to be exact) of fans on a regular basis – be it for sports events, music concerts, or even touring car fans.

To build the roof, a complicated net of steel cables was first woven on the ground and then lifted up and fastened onto masts which are secured with more cables. Add large sweeping canopies of acrylic glass, stabilized by yet more steel cables, to the mix, and you have a complex which many think imitates the Alps. Whatever you see, mountains, spiderwebs or microscopic ocean creatures, there is no denying the structure is quite spectacular.

The ingenuity and vision of this venue doesn’t stop at its construction either. Case in point: in December 2006, the stadium made history by becoming the first venue to host the Tour de Ski cross-country skiing competition. In yet another nod to the Alps, the venue made its snow for the event by combining hot air with cold refrigerated water to create the type of icy snow commonly experienced in the Alps.

Meanwhile, as a concert venue, the stadium has hosted more than its fair share of the greats. The Rolling Stones. Bruce Springsteen. Michael Jackson. Tina Turner. U2. Guns ‘n Roses. Sting. Dave Matthews Band. Elton John. AC/DC. Metallica. Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Coldplay. Madonna. Celine Dion. Rihanna. This list could go on for days. So we’ll stop there. But suffice to say, chances are, if you’ve heard of them, they’ve played here.

Situated at the heart of the Olympiapark München in northern Munich, you can visit the stadium outside of sporting events and concerts almost every day. (It is only ever closed for general public visits on December 24th and 31st, and for special events.) To get there, take the U3 underground via Olympiazentrum, followed by a 10-minute walk to the Olympic Park, or take Tram 20 und 21, stopping at Olympia Park West, or Tram 27, stopping at Petuelring.

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