After lengthy reconstruction the Olympiastadion in Helsinki is about to reopen. And Finns are doing it their way: for weeks residents will be able to visit nearly all places at the stadium, even use the Olympic facilities for exercise!
This Saturday, August 22, Helsingin Olympiastadion (or simply the Helsinki Olympic Stadium) will see its second opening. The ceremony will be broadcast live in prime time by two TV stations, proving just how important the event is, especially at a time of social distancing. Already tomorrow the very first football game will be held at the stadium (Women's Finnish Football Championship Series).
After Saturday the stadium will gradually open to everyone individually. Guided tours will resume almost immediately, from Aug 31 also including the 73-meter Olympic Tower. Because of public safety guidelines access will be subject to booking and ticketing.
Those willing to visit the inner facilities of the stadium will be welcome to visit it between September 11 and 13, when the building becomes main venue of the Helsinki Design Week. Then on September 14-19 everyone will be allowed to get a taste of the Olympic facilities, when the stadium opens for exercise. Finally, on Sept 21-24 activities for youth will be held as part of 'Helsinki on the move' programme.
What happened to Olympiastadion?
The historical host of the 1952 Olympics was officially closed in 2016 for its largest redevelopment since opening in 1938. The investment proved very costly, exceeding €260 million (roughly €50 million over initial estimates). The price tag was influenced by how sustainable and respectful of the original design Finns wanted the stadium to be. After all, it's not just an Olympic icon but also an example of Finnish functionalism in architecture.
“I am convinced that its architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti would be proud and content to examine the results of the refurbishment work now completed. The improvements allow us to make sure that the Stadium is not only a monument of the past but also a part of the most heart-stirring Finnish sports and cultural experience in the future”, Annika Saarikko, Minister of Science and Culture commented on the inauguration.
In order not to alter the outer form of the stadium, newly created facilities were placed within a new underground level, hidden from view. Also, instead of cantilevered roof structure, a simple and more discreet one was used, even if it means pillars being placed within the auditorium, obstructing view partially to some people (as is the case with Berlin's Olympiastadion).
The new roof uses 3,000 tons of steel and its inner side has been decorated with over 10,000 m2 of sustainably sourced timber. This effort is in line with Olympiastadion's historical wooden facade cladding.
Capacity of the stadium went slightly down because of the intervention financed by Helsinki and the Finnish government. Instead of 42,062 people, the building can now hold some 36,200, although for concerts the crowd size will be able to reach 50,000. Much of the size reduction was caused by the selected seat model. Contrary to global trends, all regular seats are wooden, designed to match the historical benches, protected by the Building Protection Act.