In April 1919, Antwerp was chosen to host the 1920 Olympic Games. The organisers quickly organised the construction of the sports venues, including an Olympic stadium, in a difficult economic context just after the First World War. The location chosen for the future stadium was a field used for training by Beerschot AC, a football club created in 1899. The area is around five kilometres south of the city centre, and belonged to a local wealthy family. Initially estimated at one million francs, the final cost of the stadium was more than double that, because of the post-war inflation.
The architects drew inspiration from the stadium in Stockholm, but created a more modest- sized one in Antwerp. Two main covered stands on either side of the stadium hosted the spectators, with the royal box in the centre of one of the stands. The royal box had a separate entrance and reception area. Other boxes beside it were reserved for the IOC, the National Olympic Committees, the City Council and the International Federations. As well as the stands on the sides, there were also circular ones with no roof that offered standing places. The area between the royal box and the athletics track was used by the press: each journalist had a desk with a telephone and a telegraph. A 389.9-metre athletics track encircled the football field. The athletes entered the stadium via a tunnel which linked the changing rooms directly with the infield.
The compact size of the stadium and its fittings ensured good visibility from every part of the stands.
According to Richard Cashman, the stadium had Greek decorations, and plaster arches and columns in the circular stands. As plaster is not built to last, these decorations disappeared some time after the Games.
AFTER THE GAMES
According to The Stadium Guide, the capacity of the stadium decreased over the years to 25,000, and some parts were demolished. In 2000, the stadium underwent a major transformation: the athletics track was removed and four individual stands with a capacity of 10,000 replaced the previous ones. KFCO Beerschot Wilrijk football club currently plays there.
DID YOU KNOW?
- King Albert I followed the preparations for the Olympic Games closely. On 27 March 1920, he even paid an incognito visit to the stadium to inspect the progress of work.
- Jeux Olympiques à Anvers (Belgique) en 1920: VIIme Olympiade, Règlements généraux, comités, programme général, Comité exécutif de la VIIme Olympiade, 1920, 103.
- Karl Lennartz, Wolf Reinhardt, Ralph Schlüter, Die Spiele des VII. Olympiade 1920 in Antwerpen, Kassel: AGON Sportverlag, 2013, pp. 35-36.
- “Olympisch Stadion”, website of The Stadium
- “Olympisch Stadion”, website of the KFCO Beerschot
- Rapport officiel des Jeux de la VIIème Olympiade Anvers 1920, Comité Olympique Belge, 1957, 10, 13, 15, 49, 173.
- Richard Cashman, “Olympic Legacy in an Olympic City: Monuments, Museums and Memory”, Global and Cultural Critique: Problematizing the Olympic Games, Fourth International Symposium for Olympic Research, 1998, p.
- Roland Renson, La VIIième Olympiade Anvers 1920: Les Jeux ressuscités, Comité Olympique et Interfédéral Belge [ed.], Brussels, 1995, pp. 19-20.
|Name:||Beerschot Athletic Club Stadium, Beerschot Field or the Kiel Stadium are all names for the Antwerp Olympic stadium.|
|Location:||Atletenstraat 80, 2020 Antwerpen-Kiel, Belgium|
|Status:||Built for the Games. Currently in use.|
|Designers:||Fernand de Montigny and Louis Somers (architects) MM. Humphreys Co (contractors)|
|Cost:||2,280,479 Belgian francs|
|Construction:||July 1919 to April 1920|
|Official opening:||1 May 1920 (Opening date given in the official report. Other sources give 23 May as the opening date.)|
|Events during the Games:||Athletics (including the start and finish of the marathon and the cross-country), football, gymnastics, rugby, tug of war, weightlifting and the equestrian part of the modern pentathlon. Opening and Closing Ceremonies. (The stadium was also used several times before the Games. It hosted gymnastics demonstrations and musical competitions on 23 June, and qualifying events to select the Belgian athletics team on 27 June. The press was not told about these events by the organisers and the stadium was empty.)|