Entry and a basic tour of the Olympic Stadium costs €12, a mid-level game ticket costs €26. Easy choice!
Hertha Berlin I know very little about. FC Köln I know very little about. The Olympic Stadium is an iconic venue, magnificent in form but infamous in origin.
On a journey to purchase tickets to the game, I discovered that one of the roads approaching the stadium has been renamed Jesse Owens Avenue. A beautiful gesture.
The stadium entrances are all at ground level. All of the main bowl seats are below. Corporate boxes sit just behind and the upper bowl is a flight of concrete stairs above. The swathes of seats are vast and the running track around the field means that everything really is just huge.
Upgrades for the 2006 World Cup tournament means the stadium has roofing that covers all but the first 10 rows from the worst of the elements. The rain was falling, the air was chilled, only a few drops made it as far as block B.4 row 14 seat 19. Wind swirled around the arena, extremities were painfully cold, but hot drinks and currywurst and a brisk walk around the stadium at half time partially rectified that.
The football wasn’t premiership or international standard — both teams now in the 2. Bundesliga, and the stadium wasn’t full — 34,000 was announced during the game, with a 72,000 capacity.
The atmosphere was strange. There’s an ongoing protest from Bundesliga fans which I believe was observed by fans from both sides on Thursday night. More info and some photos about the Bundesliga fan protest here. The Hertha fan section stood together, combining large pieces of black card and a huge flag emblazoned with a cross impaling a football. At least… cursory googling tells me it’s to do with ticket prices. (Further research shows it’s to do with security clampdowns too).
After eight or ten minutes the black card was dispersed with. Before twelve minutes had elapsed, the Köln fans were silent and only a murmor rose from the Hertha fans in blue. At that point however, dozens of toilet rolls (or the throwing equivalent) were unfurled, the last of the black banners were done away with, the flag was rolled up. Flags were waved and drums belted.
Plumes of white ticker tape were hurled in the air and the chants began. I feared the game would be a damp squib with thousands of fans unhappy to be out on a cold Thursday when they could be at home tucking into their cabbage. Just a protest. A peaceful, effective, protest.
The game ended a 1-1 stalemate, but was very entertaining and if it was summer I would definitely go back. Winter? I’m not so sure.