Euro Postcard from the historic Olympiastadion

The UEFA EURO 2024 Trophy is displayed at the Olympiastadion in Berlin

The UEFA EURO 2024 Trophy is displayed at the Olympiastadion in Berlin Credit: Photo by Maja Hitij - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Macdara Ferris reports from Berlin

After last night’s penalty shoot-out in Hamburg, it is back to Berlin this weekend for me and another trip out to the Olympiastadion for what will be the last quarter-final tie of the tournament with Netherlands taking on Türkiye. It is a venue I won’t ever bore of visiting due to its history and architecture. 

The first time I was in Berlin was 20 years ago when I spent a few days exploring the city before heading west to watch one of those Poland v Ireland friendlies – this one was a particularly forgettable scoreless draw by Brian Kerr’s team in Bydgoszcz in April 2004.

It could have been Roy Keane’s first game back after Saipan, only for the Manchester United player to withdraw due to a hamstring issue just prior to the match.

I remember heading out to the Olympic Stadium back then just to have a look at the venue, even though major renovations were underway for the 2006 World Cup. The U2 underground train takes you to the stadium but the S-Bahn gives you a chance to walk up Jessie Owen Strasse to the stadium. 

Like the Leipzig Zentralstadion, the Olympiastadion in Berlin was redeveloped for that World Cup.

The repurposing of the venue wasn’t as radical as Leipzig’s stadium rebuild inside the old stadium that I wrote about here, but the new roof above the Olympic Stadium has given it a new lease of life, even if it has added some restricted view tickets. There are 20 column trees in the upper tier supporting the new roof which do block the view of the pitch from some seats.

The stadium is a stunning venue, not just a stunning football stadium. Located in the Olympiapark to the west of the city, it was built for the 1936 Olympics on the location of the former Grunewald horse race track.

Its stone colonnaded structure has the outdoor Olympic swimming pool adjacent to it – not being used on matchday but when I was there for the pre-match press conference on the eve of the Switzerland and Italy game, there were swimmers doing laps and people jumping off the diving tower.

Beside the swimming pool is the DFB-Pokal / German Cup Walk of Fame. Not quite as impressive as the SV Hamburg Hall of Fame with Uwe Seeler’s foot recreated Gulliver’s Travels size, this walk of fame commemorates the cup heroes from the DFB Cup competition.

The stadium has hosted the final every year since 1985.

Each year two more cup heroes are added – one is the player of the match from that year’s cup final and another is a cup hero from the 71 year history of the cup competition.

Embedded in metal on the walk are the impression of the feet of players such as Arjen Robben, Kevin de Bruyne, Thomas Müller and the legendary Gerd Müller amongst others, along with the imprint of the hands of Oliver Kahn.

The Olympiastadion hosted games in the 1974 World Cup and the 2006 tournament including the Italy v France final. It is the home ground for Herta Berlin – whose adjacent training facilities Austria were using as their team base during the Euros – and it was the venue in 2015 for Barcelona's Champions League win over Juventus. 

It is also the stadium where the world witnessed the fastest ever 100m and 200m races. The athletics track is where Usain Bolt won gold in the men’s 100m and 200m races at the World Athletics Championship in 2009 setting those world best times.

The press centre is actually located in the basement using part of the stadium that has an underground 100m long athletic track.

For this European Championship, the venue has hosted three group games, including the Austria v Netherlands match, Switzerland v Italy in the last 16, this weekend's Netherlands and Türkiye quarter-final and it will be where the final will take place on Sunday 14th July. 

When you enter the stadium bowl, the lower tier is below ground so when you come in at that level, the stadium drops in front of you to the pitch 15m below before your eyes are drawn up to the fabric-clad roof.

The roof and upper tier of the stadium is broken only by the corridor framed by the Marathontor (Marathon Gate) where the Olympic flame was located and this gives the 71,000 capacity stadium its signature look. 

In the 2006 redevelopment a stadium chapel was added. It is open to athletes and visitors to the Olympiastadion and can be used for wedding ceremonies and baptisms.

Maybe a player or two from a team who makes the final will go there to light a candle and say a prayer for their country before kick off on 14th July.