The architects Günther Behnisch and Frei Otto were in charge of designing and building the stadium that would host the Olympic Games in Munich 1972. Little did they know that they were building one of the most iconic stadiums in the World?
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Distinctive, unique and outstanding, with its spectacular construction under the iconic roof, the Munich Olympic Stadium is not only the architectural centerpiece of the Olympic Park – since its opening in 1972 for the summer Olympics, it has also always been the most important venue of the biggest and greatest events in sports.
With peaks and valleys echoing the nearby Alps, the vast canopy of the Munich Olympic Stadium has been a local landmark. Intended to present a new face for post-war Germany, the stadium—strikingly modernist in character—was meant to stand in harmony with its surroundings.
Despite these modest intentions, however, controversy surrounded the project from its outset, which centered on skyrocketing costs, the erosion of local heritage, and the grim specter of Germany’s recent past.
The decision to hold the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich held considerable political significance for the republic of West Germany. The international spectacle of the Games was one of the nation’s best chances to build a new image for itself.
From 1931 to 1939 Munich Airport was located on the Oberwiesenfeld. After the World War II, the debris rubble
from the bombing of the city was piled up, from which the Olympic Mountain emerged.
This was intentionally created oval, so that it could be used as a tribune foundation for a stadium to the already existing ideas were.
In February 1967, an architectural competition was announced and a total of 104 drafts were submitted, one of which came from architect Günter Behnisch and his associate, Fritz Auer, who planned to build the stadium, the Olympic Hall and the swimming pool closely adjacent to each other west of the Olympic Tower.
About 436 kilometers of steel cables were strung between fifty-eight cast steel pylons, supporting a sinuous canopy composed of eight thousand Plexiglass panels. The enormous structure ultimately covered almost 75,000 square meters, making it the most ambitious construction project West Germany had ever seen. The roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich, which covers and unifies the stadium, tracks and pools, was developed based on the use of computerized mathematical procedures in determining their form and behavior, resulting in an architectural form of ‘minimal surfaces’.
While Otto’s vision of a light, cost-efficient structure did not come to pass, site planning succeeded in achieving Behnisch’s goal to distance the new Olympic Park from its fascist predecessor. With its clear axes and bold Neo-classical buildings, Werner March’s design for the 1936 Berlin Olympics was an architectural boast, proclaiming the power of the Third Reich through its visual domination of its surroundings.
In contrast, Munich’s stadium stood equal with—even subordinate to—an environment of hills, streams, and small lakes.
Colors such as red, gold, and purple were also deemed suggestive of dictatorship and therefore eschewed in favor of the natural blues and greens of the Bavarian countryside – ironically paying respect to the local heritage the design was accused of disregarding altogether.The Summer Olympic Games in 1972 with the competitions in track and field and brilliant winners like Klaus Wolfermann, Ulrike Meyfarth or Heide Rosendahl; in football location of the World Cup in 1974 with Gerd Müller scoring the decisive goal in the final against the Netherlands and the European Championship 1988, when Marco van Basten marked one of the best goals of the century and helped Holland to win the title. Furthermore, this stadium has witnessed many unforgotten international matches of the German football team, from the inaugural match in May 1972 against the USSR (4-1) until the most remarkable 1-5 defeat against England in a World Cup Qualifier in 2001.
Moreover the Olympic Stadium has been the home ground for Bayern Munich for more than three decades. In the 33 years from 1972 to 2005, Bayern had played here the team has celebrated 17 German championships in the Stadium or had at least laid the foundation for it.
In its history, the Olympic Stadium has experienced many more significant major events in sports. But also in terms of culture the Olympic Stadium is still one of Germany’s most important and leading locations. AC/DC, Robbie Williams, Genesis, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, the Three Tenors – that’s enough names to impress. Many stars of music have delivered impressive open-air concerts in front of a sold out crowd. There have also been some Rock festivals, like “Rock im Park” or the “Rockavaria” in 2015, lasting several days and drawing tens of thousands of music lovers into the Stadium.
The stadium still stands, its innovative canopy slated to undergo a renovation costing over 100 million EUR, having survived public outcry and its own designer’s frustrated intentions to become a lasting monument for the people of modern Germany.
Since 12 September 1972, a total of 51.6 million spectators have been drawn to over 2000 events in this glorious Olympic stadium. And over 13.6 million visitors have taken the stadium tour. Munich’s Olympic Stadium has been a crowd puller ever since the first games were held – and it will continue to be one for many years to come.