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Amsterdam 1928


THE PROJECT

The existing stadium to the south of the city was not suitable for holding the Games. The organisers thus proposed a radical plan to get one that was. In 1925, architect Jan Wils attended the Olympic Congress in Prague with an initial plan to alter the existing stadium. The plan met expectations, was accepted, and received the support of the Nederlandsch Sportpark, the company that would be taking over the stadium after the Games, and Amsterdam City Council.

However, the initial plan changed when the city offered the organisers 19 hectares of other land close to the old stadium. So Wils revised his plans; the old stadium was demolished, and a new, more suitable sports complex built next to it. In addition to the stadium itself, temporary accommodation and venues for the swimming, tennis, fencing, wrestling and weightlifting events with a capacity of 20,000 were built close by. Wils included catering facilities in the stadium and the surrounding buildings, but the organisers were not convinced of the need for them. The plan was finally accepted, given the probability that the Games participants would eat several meals inside the stadium. In addition to the buffet facilities, a 500-seat restaurant was set up in a tent for the Games.

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ARCHITECTURE

Unlike the old stadium, which was oriented from west to east, the new one was oriented north to south to maximise the amount of sunlight on the competition area in the afternoon and protect the spectators from the wind. The shape of the stadium was dictated by that of the 500-metre cycle track: once that was established, the rest of the building was built around it. The track was separated from the stands by a double balustrade, which protected spectators and riders alike. In addition to the cycle track, the arena included a football pitch and a 400- metre running track.

The stadium foundations consisted of 4,425 piles between 14 and 18 metres long. The columns, beams and flooring of the building and the internal walls built between the columns were made of reinforced concrete. The outer façade was a red-brick wall all around the building, through which the internal framework can be seen. The visible concrete parts were sandblasted.

The two lateral stands were protected by a steel roof, for which the fixing system was designed to impede the spectators’ view as little as possible. The royal box was in the centre of the western stand. A terrace of honour was built in front of the royal box to provide an area where the winning athletes could be presented with their medals. The two roofless circular stands offered seating at each end and standing places in the centre. Fourteen sets of stairs of two different widths allowed the public to access the stands and leave the stadium in between 10 and 12 minutes. (In seven minutes according to Olympisch Stadion Amsterdam (1928).)

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PARTICULAR FEATURES

Given the marshy nature of the land provided by the city, 750,000 cubic metres cubes of sand were used to raise and stabilise the ground.

The stadium was also surrounded by canals, the north and south Amstel, which were 30 metres wide. As a result, it was necessary to build quays and supporting walls, provide moorings and include navigable waterways in the stadium plans.

The 46-metre high Marathon Tower was built on the esplanade outside, 20 metres from the stadium, to break up the horizontal lines of the building. A symbolic fire burned at the top of the tower during the Games. Beside the tower was the Marathon gate, a formal and decorative entrance to the stadium opposite the royal box. Edged with flowers and coloured decorations, this reinforced concrete gateway, covered with alternating bricks and glass, was topped by four balconies. Access to the competition area was solely through this gateway and two tunnels.

In the simple repose of the building, which seems spontaneously to rise up from the groundplan […], the character of the Olympic Games is revived: supple, muscular, airy and festive, and at the same time dignified and stately. P.W. Scharroo Vice-President of the Amsterdam 1928 Organising Committee and former IOC member.
AFTER THE GAMES

In 1937, a 60,000-seat stadium was built in Rotterdam. To ensure that the national team’s football matches were still played in Amsterdam, the capacity of the Amsterdam stadium therefore had to be increased. Wils added a concrete stand above the brick wall, which altered the general aesthetics of the building.

The 1990s were particularly difficult for the building: the concrete additions were ageing badly, and the stadium no longer met the standards in force. It narrowly avoided demolition thanks to the investment of Dutch businessman Piet Kranenberg. The stadium was instead completely renovated: the additional stand was removed, and the structure was renovated at a cost of around 25 million florins.

When it reopened in 2000, it hosted events such as concerts, national and international football matches, athletics competitions and even speed skating competitions. In addition, private bodies such as television companies, sports clubs and sports equipment shops rent premises throughout the year. Today, the stadium can hold 22,500 spectators. The building and surrounding area are designed for leisure and culture, with access to parkland, restaurants and museums.

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DID YOU KNOW?

- Jan Wils, the stadium architect, won first prize in the architectural design competition at the Games in Amsterdam. The winning project was none other than the Olympic stadium itself.

- Building a car park close to the stadium was a key point for the organisers. As the Netherlands is a country of cyclists, the organisers selected a plot behind the old stadium to create parking for 2,000 bicycles as well as 3,500 cars.

SOURCES

- IXe Olympiade: Rapport officiel des Jeux de la IXe Olympiade, Amsterdam 1928, Netherlands Olympic Committee, 1931, pp. 37, 97, 108, 112-115, 151, 173-183, 187, 188,195, 197, 201, 206, 209, 211, 889.
- “Olympic Stadium Amsterdam”, iamsterdam.com website.
- Olympisch Stadion Amsterdam, Weenenk en Snel [ed.], 1928, n. p.
- P. W. Scharroo, “The Olympic Stadium”, Officieel feestnummer: Olympische spelen te Amsterdam 1928, J. Mulder, Gouda [ed.], 1928, pp. 24-28.
- Ruud Paauw, “A Second Life: for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Stadium”, Journal of Olympic History, vol. 8, no. 3, September 2000, pp. 10-11.
- “Stadium and Arena” and “Events – Speedskating in the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam”, website of the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium.
- Woojciech Zablocki, “Architecture Gold Medal: Jan Wils”, Journal of Olympic History, vol. 14, Special Edition, May 2006, p. 33.



OLYMPIC STADIUM
Name: Olympic Stadium
Location: Olympisch Stadion 2, 1076 DE Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Status: Built for the Games. Currently in use.
Designers: Jan Wils (architect),
Kruithof and Scholten (contractor)
Cost: 1,243,181 florins (gross costs of the stadium with the results board, roof for two stands and running and cycle tracks) (A list of the expenses on p. 151 of the official report mentions the additional costs needed, such as the land for the stadium and the Marathon Tower.)
Capacity: 40,000 spectators
Dimensions: ~245m long and ~163m wide
Additional information: -
Construction: In September 1926, work began on stabilising the ground and consolidating the foundations. From May 1927 (the first stone was laid on 18 May) to May 1928, construction of the building.
Official opening: First use on 17 May 1928 for the opening match of the Olympic hockey tournament (Netherlands - France).
Events during the Games: Jumping in the equestrian events (including eventing), athletics (including the start and finish of the marathon), track cycling and a number of football and hockey matches.
Opening and Closing Ceremonies.


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