On the eve of Jubilee Marathon Stockholm, I took a guided tour of the Stockholm Olympic Stadium (“Stadion”). From outside, the facade gives heavy air – clean simple lines and sharp angles created by dark red brick buildings. Inside, the gothic castle-like stadium is a bit soften by the oval and the field. While the track and field is well maintained, little has changed to the buildings themselves since 1912, the year Stockholm hosted the fifth modern summer Olympic Games. To this day, it is the oldest Olympic stadium still in use today.
100 years. It only takes a couple of seconds to verbalize it but that’s an impressive amount of time. During the 100 years, lots have changed to marathon as a sport, from the distances run (42.195km today vs. 40.075km then) and to the speed the runners capture the distance and to the size of participation worldwide. But the next day, we were to repeat the marathon in the same manner and fashion as it was done 100 years ago. A Swedish runner was going to repeat the distance in exactly the same time of the Olympic winner. The next day, we were to enter Stadion receiving cheers from the spectators in the stand and to walk half the oval to the start line, reminiscent of what Stadion saw 100 years ago. How fun would that be!
Stadion used to have a second level between the two towers. The spot I was standing (above photo) had the second level over me as seen in the black and white photo. (Source: Wikipedia). The period photo also indicates the intimate size of the Games, 2,408 competitors, compared to over 11,000 for the London Games this year. Back in the day, Olympic Games included track and field events that are very different from today’s. The ‘Sunshine Olympics’ of 1912 included tag of war, standing high-jump and standing broad-jump, among others. Other tidbits from the Sunshine Olympics include the introduction of an automatic timing system for the track and field events, Japanese marathoner, Kanakuri Shizo, went missing during the competition and for 50 years, only death (Francisco Lázaro of Portugal) during the modern Olympic marathon, and the world record of 83 world records in any Olympic Games.
Stadion is located in the north-east section of the city of Stockholm, along Valhallavägen. It is closed for the public, though one can enter Stadion for concert, football and other events. Diamond League had a track and field competition in 2011. The way Stadion is maintained, I am certain this venue will be here for another 100 years and continues to be a historical landmark of Stockholm and Sweden.