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Recalling times past at Munich's Olympiapark

A view of the iconic stadium in the Olympiapark in Munich, Germany. The stadium's tent-like, Plexiglas roof was unique in 1972, when the Olympic Games were held in the Bavarian city.


By IMMANUEL JOHNSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: March 25, 2021

The best daytrip can sometimes be the one we take in our minds that reminds us of places we once visited, and will be able to go to again when things reopen.

For me, that means remembering the Olympiapark in Munich, which I visited last year, when lockdowns were lifted between the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

Despite its sometimes tragic and controversial history, the park became one of my happy places.

It was built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the first games in Germany since 1936, when Adolf Hitler tried to use the games to showcase the supremacy of the Aryan race. African-American athlete Jesse Owens’ four gold medals helped show that to be a myth.

The 1972 games were marked by tragedy, when 11 members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists, and by controversy, such as when the Soviet basketball team won gold by a single point over the U.S. after officials twice extended the game by three seconds. It was the first time the Americans hadn't won Olympic gold in basketball. They boycotted the medals ceremony.

The centerpiece of the park is the Olympic stadium, where the U.S. won six track and field gold medals, including Dave Wottle’s come-from-behind victory in the 800 meters.

The stadium has a tent-like, transparent roof, which is said to have been an architectural first at the time. It still hosts sports events, as well as concerts — Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen have played there — and dayslong music festivals. But now, like similar venues in Germany, it’s closed because of the coronavirus.

A positive thing the 1972 Olympics are remembered for is the record-breaking success by U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz, the first person to win seven gold medals at the games.

You can swim in the same 50-meter pool as Spitz did when Germany's pandemic restrictions end. The swimming complex has five pools, and houses the largest fitness center in Munich.

I would also recommend going up the Olympic Tower when restrictions are lifted. The viewing platform, more than 620 feet above the park, offers a bird’s-eye view of Munich and what was the Olympic village.

The park is roughly two hours away from Grafenwoehr and Vilseck and can be accessed by car, or train and public transportation. If you bring a bike or your running gear, you could visit now and jog or cycle around the park’s many outdoor trails. But make sure to come back when things reopen and make a day of it.

Twitter: @Manny_Stripes

Location: Spiridon-Louis-Ring 21, 80809 Munich

Food: Occasional street vendors, and when restrictions are lifted, there’s a beer garden near the tower and stadium and a cafe in the pool complex.

Hours: The park is open 24 hours a day, but facilities like the stadium, tower or swimming complex have restricted opening hours and are currently closed.

Cost: Entry to the park is free, but there is a charge to visit the stadium or tower, and to use many of the facilities.

More information: Online: olympiapark.de/en/olympiapark-munich Phone: +49 (0) 89 30 67 0

A view from the Olympic Tower in the Olympiapark in Munich, Germany, of what was the athletes' village during the 1972 games. Tragedy unfolded in the village when Palestinian terrorists took members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage and killed them.