Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam
The Olympisch Stadion is a stadium built as the main stadium for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. When completed, the stadium had a capacity of 31,600. Following the completion of the rival De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam in 1937, the Amsterdam authorities decided to increase the capacity of the Olympisch Stadion to 64,000 by adding a second ring to the stadium. AFC Ajax used the Olympisch Stadion for international games until 1996, when the Amsterdam ArenA was completed.
Since 2005, the stadium is home to a sports museum, the Olympic Experience Amsterdam. It is no longer used as a football stadium.
Architecture and design
The Olympisch Stadion was designed by architect Jan Wils, and is one of the finest examples of Amsterdamse School architecture, complementing the surrounding neighbourhood designed by H.P. Berlage. The design won the Olympic gold medal in the architecture competition at the 1928 Olympics. The concrete second ring that was added in 1937 to the north and south wing of the stadium was also designed by Jan Wils.
The original plan of Jan Wils consisted of an extension of the Harry Elte stadium that was situated next to the current Olympisch Stadion. This plan was rejected as the municipal government of Amsterdam had planned an important urban development programme in that area, and wanted to demolish the stadium as soon as possible. The second plan was almost fully executed, and consisted of a new Olympisch Stadion that was situated more westward. In January 1926, the Amsterdam municipal government, the National Olympic Committee and the NV Nederlandsch Sportpark—the owner of the Harry Elte stadium—reached an agreement; after the Olympic Games of 1928, the Harry Elte stadium would be demolished and the NV Nederlandsch Sportpark would be the owner of the Olympisch Stadion. Starting in January 1926, the area in which the stadium was to be built was elevated by means of 750,000 cubic metres of sand. This phase was completed in October of that year and in the same month the construction of the pile foundation began. On 18 May 1927, the ceremonial first stone was placed by Prince Hendrik. Some two million stones would follow.
The football pitch measures 114 by 75 metres. The athletics track around it is 8 metres wide and has a perimeter of 400 metres. The cycle track around the athletics track was 9 metres wide had a perimeter of 500 metres.<ref name="Kiers"/> It also hosted the equestrian jumping, field hockey, and gymnastics events.
The capacity of the stadium is subject to controversy as the exact capacity was kept secret to press and public during the Games to evade the remark that the stadium's capacity was only marginally bigger than the Harry Elte stadium. It is said that two configurations could be set up in the stadium; one with 21,537 seats and 12,618 standing rooms (33,255 total) and one with 16,197 seats and 25,236 standing rooms (41,433 total).<ref name="Kiers"/> After the Games the NOC admitted that the capacity of the stadium was somewhere near 31,600. Additional seats could be added on the cycle track, which would increase the capacity with 5,900.<ref name="Kiers"/>
The 1928 Olympics introduced the idea of the Olympic Flame. The flame burned for the first time ever in a tall tower, known as the Marathon tower, adjacent to the Olympisch Stadion. In the top of the Marathon tower, four balconies are situated which were used during the Games by horn blowers. Above these balconies four speakers from Philips were attached, from which results and messages were broadcasted unto the Olympic area, a novelty at the time. The bowl on top which carried the Olympic flame was known to Amsterdammers as "the ashtray of KLM pilots".<ref name="Kiers"/> A permanent Olymic flame burning during the tournament was also an Olympic first.
Renovation after being saved from demolition
In 1987 the city government announced plans to demolish the stadium. The stadium was saved, however, when it was listed as a national monument. Renovation started in 1996, and the stadium was refurbished into the original construction of 1928. The second ring of 1937 was removed, and the stadium was made suitable for track and field competitions again. The original bicycle track was also removed to enable the use of the space beneath the seats for offices. The stadium was reopened by the Prince of Orange on 13 May 2000.
In 2007, the area around the stadium was renovated as part of larger urban renewal project covering the entire Olympic area. North of the stadium 969 houses were completed in 2008. In the same year, the islands in the river Schinkel to the west of the stadium were suited with tennis fields and football pitches, an athletics track and a park. The Stadionplein square in front of the stadium is also to be renovated, which is expected to begin in 2010.
Two new bridges were also built around the stadium: to the south there is a new bridge suitable for all traffic, the Na Druk Gelukbrug, and to the Schinkel islands in the west there is a cyclists and pedestrian bridge, called Jan Wilsbrug.
Use after the Olympic Games
The stadium hosted several international matches of the Dutch national football team, the first one being the game against Uruguay (0–2) during the Summer Olympics on 30 May 1928. The last one was a friendly on 6 September 1989 against Denmark (0–2).
After the Olympics, the stadium was used regularly for various sporting events, including athletics, speedway, field hockey and cycling. The 1954 Tour de France, for example, started outside the stadium. However, it was football that remained the most popular. It was both the home ground of Blauw Wit FC and BVC Amsterdam (later merged into FC Amsterdam), while AFC Ajax used the stadium for games in which the crowd was expected to exceed the capacity of its own De Meer Stadion, or for midweek games which required the use of floodlights, with which the De Meer was not initially suited. Ajax continued this arrangement until the completion of the Amsterdam ArenA in 1996.
The stadium will host the 2016 European Championships in Athletics. Because of this, an athletics track was added to the plan for the nearby Park Schinkeleilanden at the last moment. The athletics track in that nearby park, which could be a warming up track when using the main track in the Olympic Stadium for racing, was opened in 2008. The stadium also serves as the start and finish of the Amsterdam Marathon, held every October.
The stadium is also a tourist attraction. Tourists especially come from the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Belgium, and Canada, and tours are available in Dutch, German, Greek, English and French.
In 1990 the Pixies recorded a video for their song Allison on the field.
Famous games, apart from the Olympic Games, include:
- 1962 European Cup final between Benfica and Real Madrid, ending in a 5–3 Benfica victory
- Ajax's 5–1 victory over Liverpool on 7 December 1966
- 1928 Summer Olympics official report. pp. 173–205.