Are we taking the Olympic spirit too far?


You may have missed the little nugget in the media over the past week that West Ham United are going to be moving to the Olympic Stadium in 2016.  It seems the world and his wife have an opinion on this subject, whether they be fans of the Hammers, of the Olympic Park or just concerned tax payers.  I have written about my opposition to the move on numerous occasions but decided to reflect back on those reasons over the weekend.  I can now see the good and the bad in the plan to move the club 2 1/2 miles north(ish) to the newest stadium in Great Britain.  So I thought I would try to write a “balanced view statement” as my daughter’s English teacher is so fond of saying, focusing on why I think it is a good deal for all parties, and why it is a bad deal for all parties.

7686283758_062833b406_bThis was hard.  I tend to write very opinionated pieces, focusing on one side to a story.  But I genuinely can see both sides.  Even my mother-in-law sent me a text, asking my opinion and I simply don’t know.  The obvious winner in all of this is undoubtedly West Ham United Football Club.  Nobody can deny that the FOOTBALL CLUB will benefit massively from this move.  But who or what exactly constitutes the Football Club?  The team? The employees of the club?  The fans?  The owners?  Or a combination of all or some of the above?  Let’s see…

So my idea is to present five clear arguments for and against the decision of the club to move to Stratford.  There, of course, is no right or wrong answer.  In ten years time with West Ham dominating the Premier League and having won successive Champions League titles, playing in front of 54,000 local’s with families and local good causes well represented and contributing to the local economy, the doom mongers will have to hold their hands up and say they were wrong.  But if the stadium sits half full whilst West Ham play hoof ball against Carlisle United in the lower leagues (no disrespect to Carlisle United btw), whilst local businesses employ their Saturday 1pm curfew then we know something will have gone very wrong indeed.

Some people will agree with my views, others wont.  Nobody knows what the future will bring.  We can see the success that Manchester City have experienced since moving to the old Commonwealth Games stadium (although that’s not the reason why), Capital Cup winners Swansea City have enjoyed since moving to the Liberty Stadium or even Wigan Athletic have seen since Dave Whelan built the DW/JJB.  But we all remember the tales of desperation that haunted Darlington after moving to their new stadium, or the pain that Coventry City are currently going through at the Ricoh Arena.  So where, without further fanfare…. Continue reading

The Olympics Diary – Day Seven – It’s all about the Newtonian counter-reaction


Legacy is a very popular word at the moment. It has become the political hot potato despite the fact the Games still haven’t finished. During the last week the one legacy I have seen already has been a change in the British people. No longer do we make small talk about the weather, but instead we talk about if we had any tickets for the Olympics. I have no idea what we will talk about next week when the Games have finished but I expect some embarrassing silences before we become comfortably enough to broach meteorology again.

When the question “Did you get any Olympic tickets?” raises his head you get two responses. A “No” will result in an almost patronizing “aahh” and a comment along the lines about the BBC showing all 24 events at the same time, and it’s better to watch Gary Linekar and Gabby Logan anyway. A “Yes” though almost certainly results in a second question…”Anything in the stadium yet?” The simple fact of the matter is that THE Olympics is really all about the events on the track.

Everyone wanted to see events in the stadium. I don’t think it was ever going to hit the heights in terms of jaw-dropping architecture of the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing or the sheer size of Sydney’s stadium from 2000. The whole embarrassing fuss that has surrounded the future ownership of it has been unwanted and as we enter the final few weeks of its original designed “life” it was still no clearer than it was 3 years ago as to who would be the permanent tenant of the stadium. Bids had been received from West Ham United, Essex County Cricket and an audacious statement to turn the whole park into a Formula 1 track. Continue reading

Getting a leg(acy) up


Here is a little secret for West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur awaiting the decision on who will get the Olympic Stadium next week.  Whisper it quietly, but football fans rarely want to watch football in an Olympic Stadium.  Why do I say that? Well a simple look at similar structures around the world, built for non-football events reveals quite a bit.  The prospect of an Olympic Games being awarded to a city sends them into construction meltdown, over promising and in most cases under delivering on the legacy of the games.  The whole story of whether a stadium will have an athletics track or not is not a new thing.  We all know that at the end of the day politics will win the day, and we have seen all sorts of stories in the past few weeks about who will do what when/if they win the bid.

Below we have analysed the stadiums used in the last ten games, and what has happened since.  And what does history tell us?  Well, lets start back in 1972 shall we?

The Olympiastadion – Munich (1972 Olympic Games)
The games that transformed a nation, both before but also during with the events of Black September.  The stadium was built literally with rubble cleared from the city after the post war rebuilding effort.  It was a very futuristic structure when it opened in 1971 with its translucent wavy roof and a capacity of 69,00. Both Munich teams moved in to start, regularly playing in front of sell out crowds before TSV got bored and moved away back to their spiritual home nearer the city centre.   The stadium retained its running track which meant some fans behind the goals were nearly 40 metres from the action.  Both Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 were unhappy playing there – 1860 for many years played at their original Grünwalderstrasse ground.  Despite hosting a World Cup, a European Championship and three Champions League Finals both clubs jumped at the opportunity to move to a stadium of the same size when the Allianz Arena was opened prior to the 2006 World Cup.  The stadium today is still used for athletics. Continue reading

Deutschland, Deutschland wo für heraus Deutschland


 

Germany 1 England 2 – The Olympiastadion Berlin – Wednesday 19th November 2008

Time for the anthems

Time for the anthems

The major surprise in the team was the inclusion of Agbonlahor up front and in the early exchanges it was England who played the ball around with confidence.  Whilst Germany made some interesting selections, including Rene Adler in goal for just the 2nd occasion and Hoffenheim full back Compper making his debut.  However, they started with Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez up front who had scored fifty goals at this level between them. 

The first chance fell to Defoe in the second minute when he blasted wide, setting the tone for the half as England expolited the wide pitch.  The opening goal came after twenty four minutes when Adler dropped a corner and Upson prodded the ball home for his first International goal.  Everything seemed to be going England’s way as Carrick and Barry stopped any threat from the young German team, although it is impossible to know what would happen if Michael Ballack was in the middle of the park.

Towards the end of the first half there was a flair up in the German flags section closest to the England fans where it appeared a group of away fans had bought tickets on the black market, and the locals objected to them joining in with the theme to the Dambusters.  A stand off occured for a few minutes before some beer was thrown and all hell broke lose for twenty seconds before the English bid a hasty retreat into the amrs of the German riot police and a nice banning order.

Capello brought on Scott Carson at half time, his first cap since his disasterous appearance at Wembley in the win or bust game versus Croatia almost a year to the day.  He had little to do until the sixty third minute when a huge punt upfield by the substitute German keeper Wiese cleared Upson and John Terry appeared to have the ball under control and awaited Carson’s advance to collect.  Both of them took their eye of the ball in all senses and allowed Helmes to nip in and push the ball past the goalkeeper and giving the Germans an undeserved equaliser.  In the past the England fans would have reacted by booing Carson, but this is not Wembley with its plastic fans.  Sure there was some ironic cheers the next time he handled the ball, but that was it.  Terry must also take some of the blame as he had taken his eye off the German player but he responded with the type of performance a captain should put in, and with just seven minutes left he rose to head in a Downing free kick to win the game for the English.

So full marks again to Capello who had won the tactical battle against Low, and was earning more respect by the day for his team selection and tactics.  We headed off out of the stadium towards the station and were impressed by the way the Germans had segregated the fans, pushing the Germans to the far end of the station platforms and boarding them alternatively, so that there was no trains full of mixed fans.  Good idea in theory but in practice it failed.  The stream of trains soon slowed to a trickle and we were sent from platform to platform and no one seemed aware what was going on.  A train had been sitting on the platform for ten minutes when all of a sudden the doors on one carriage were pushed open and a fight broke out on the platform.  Riot police arrived within seconds although they were took slow to work out who were the perpertraitors as they merged back into the crowd, setting all of us on edge as they could come and simply take us as token arrests.

Eventually we got back into the city centre and headed to the boys hotel for a couple of beers.  I was screwed either way as I had to be up at 4am for my flight back, so 3 hours sleep is just as good as 2 so why not enjoy a drink. 

So wind forward five hours and I am sitting in the departure lounge of Tegel airport.  To my left is Alan Smith, the ex Arsenal and now well known TV pundit, and to my right is Teddy Sheringham with his latest companion.  And straight ahead sat the wettest, whingiest pathetic England fan I had ever seen.  He had decided not to go to the game after seeing a fight in a bar in the city centre, and watched it in his hotel room.  He tried to argue his case as to why his moisturiser should not be confiscated because “it was expensive” and “it was unfair on him”.  People like that make me so mad, so what odds that on a plane seating 150 guess who I am sat next to???  Fortunately God shined his light on me as he was actually due to sit in 18B and not 14F as he was next to me. 

So a crazy 24 hours in Berlin was just what the doctor ordered as a break from work.  We had certainly seen the best of Germany, and some of the worst although the fans were notably absent from most of the bars after the game – “Germans, Germans where for out thou’ Germans”

The Stadium – Olympiastadion (Olympischer Platz 3, Berlin 14053) – 74,550 All Seater
The stadium itself appears almost monumental from the outside – a perfect elliptical structure of finest German limestone. In fact some of the original inspiration of the design was taken from Rome’s Coliseum. The original architect, Werner March designed the stadium, with clear input from both Adolf Hitler, and his chief architect Albert Speer. It was meant to be a showpiece arena, where Hitler could show the world the power of the German state, both in terms of athletics and in edifices during the 1936 games.

After the Berlin wall fell in 1989, and unification gathered pace, the stadium was granted funds to begin to update its facilities. The host club, Hertha Berlin, were invited to join the inaugural German Bundesliga, and redevelopment was necessary to bring the standard of the ground up to those in the west. However, funds were not available to add probably the most important thing for a spectator – a roof. Berlin is not known for its warm barmy winter’s evenings, and so their loyal fans had to endure the elements whilst watching their team. In 1998 a decision was taken to begin the complete modernisation of the stadium by the local state government. The work, which took over four years to complete, saw the whole of the inside of the stadium demolished and replaced, piece by piece as well as the much needed roof being added. All of this construction took place with events continuing to take place in the stadium, albeit with a reduced capacity. The redevelopment work included the removal of every limestone block to be cleaned, and then replaced – a job akin to completing a huge jigsaw puzzle.

The reconstructed stadium was finally finished in time for Hertha’s first game of the 2004/05 season with VfL Bochum and underlined the venue as one of the most modern stadiums in the world, and a venue fit for the World Cup Final in 2006. The stadium also hosted matches five other matches, including the quarter final penalties victory for Germany over Argentina

How to get a ticket for the Olympiastadion
Tickets for any event that is being played at the stadium can be booked in advanced via the website http://www.olympiastadion-berlin.de. This includes concerts, American Football as well as Hertha matches. Hertha also have their own ticket website at http://www.hertha.de. Last season the average attendance at the stadium was only 47,000, meaning that for the majority of matches tickets were available on the day of the game. Tickets range in price from €13 Euros behind the goal to €45 for one of the best seats in the house in the Sud Tribune. The hardcore Hertha fans are found in the East Curve.

How to get to the Olympiastadion
The easiest way to reach the stadium is by either U-Bahn on line U2, or by S-Bahn on lines S5/S75. Both of these stations are called Olympiastadion, although they are geographically separate. The U-Bahn station is located to the east of the stadium on Rominter Allee – which will bring fans out onto the huge Olympischer Platz and the view of the famous Olympic towers. A journey from Zoo Station in the west of Berlin is 8 stops and will take around 15 minutes. From the east of the city, you can jump on the U-Bahn line at either Alexanderplatz or Potsdamer Platz – allow 35 from the former and 25 from the latter.

The S-Bahn station is located to the south of the stadium, and is around 200 yards from the Sudtor entrance. Trains run from Zoo Station, Alexanderplatz and the newly constructed Hauptbahnhof. The journey time from Zoo should be around 10 minutes.

Finally, you can get a taxi to the stadium. Normally they will drop you off at the end of the Olympischer Platz close to the Osttor. A journey from Potsdamer Platz will take around 20 minutes and cost €20, from Zoo around 15 minutes and €17. Taxi’s can be hailed in the street, found around most big hotels or by ringing   0800 2222255  .