I love Olympic Stadiums!
A desolate Olympic stadium is one of the most impressive sites to behold, they have an uncanny ability to foster my tumultuous imagination better than any other man-made structure. They are majestic and masterful yet dormant and seemingly useless all at the same time. Granted they are probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but as a product of Brock University’s department of Physical Education and Kinesiology, having studied sport history and the history of the Olympic Games, they are my big mug of hot steamy delicious tea. I have been lucky enough to have spent time at former Olympic grounds in Barcelona, Beijing and Berlin over the last couple years.
The 1992 Barcelona Games took place all over the city however the stadium, the swimming facilities and a sensational view of the city and the sea are on top of the Montjuic hill. I visited the site in 2008 with my university roommate, Leah. On a particularly hot day in February, our plan was to walk to the base of the hill, hike to the top, picnic on the grounds, take the outdoor escalator down the other side and head back towards the city. Somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn (still unsure how that happened) and we ended up walking down the other side towards … nothing. Eventually we turned around and set off up the hill, again. Extremely warm and kind of grumpy we were barely talking to each other but there is nothing like a 75 year old nudist to lighten the mood. The only person we passed on this strange leg of our journey happened to be a naked man; covered in body paint and extremely well-endowed. This utterly random experience left us giggling like school girls the rest of the way up the hill.
Next was the 2008 Beijing Olympic grounds; I visited a year after the event. Myself, my two friends and a few others we meant while traveling took a metro in the morning and spent the better part of the afternoon inside the Bird’s Nest, racing each other on the track and napping on the pitch. We entertained ourselves until dusk so that we could experience all the lights; the day was easily filled by creating our own photo opportunities and posing for local tourists who were impressed by our height and hair colour!
My latest indulgence was the site of the infamous 1936 Games in Berlin, just this past summer. Amazing. An overwhelming sense of grandeur, for better or for worse is omnipresent when walking around the gladiator style exterior (well preserved in true Nazi architecture) and the feeling is exhilarating. This is where Jesse Owens took home four gold medals for the United States and effectively blew Hitler’s plans for Aryan race domination not to mention where Zinedine Zidane head-butted his way to expulsion from the 2006 World Cup final. There are original Nazi sculptures scattered across the grounds, you can climb the Bell Tower, swim in the pool and have a look at the Reichsportfeld where Hitler hosted his May Day celebrations.
You do not have to enjoy it as much as I do; but if you find yourself traveling in a former host city, I would recommend you attempt to work it into the itinerary! You won’t regret it, an empty Olympic Stadium is a beautiful thing (or maybe you will, but you won’t know until you try).
Written by: Katie Chesher