Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Wilhelm II and Auguste Viktoria attending the opening ceremony for the new sports stadium in Grunewald.

On this day in 1913 Kaiser Wilhelm II – celebrating the 25th anniversary of his enthronement – participated in an eagerly-awaited event: the opening of the Deutsches Stadion, first Olympic sports facilities built in Berlin. Although to be quite precise, it was located not so much in Berlin as in Charlottenburg (then still an independent city west of Berlin).

Designed by Otto March, the stadium, which was to be the heart of the 1916 Berlin Olympics (the First War World put an end to those plans), was located within the 1909 Horse-Race Course, Rennbahn Grunewald, whose architect was the very same Otto March. He used the race course as the outer border of the new facility and made sure that racing fans could see competing horses despite the despite the “intrusion”: the only element of Deutsches Stadion blocking the view was the Kaiserloge, an elegant VIP box built for the Kaiser.

Baron von Alvesleben presenting himself and his horses before the Kaiserloge on June 8, 1913 (image via Ullstein Bilder).

To facilitate access to the new site from Berlin’s centre, Deutsches Stadion, also known as Grunewald Stadion, was provided with its own railway line: the station, Bahnhof “Stadion” opened on the same day in 1913. In what can be considered a rather funny twist of fate, the architect of the station opened on German Kaiser‘s enthronement anniversary was a famous Swiss designer who left a big mark on Berlin’s architecture, Sepp Kaiser.

Bahnhof “Stadion” (now “Olympia-Stadion) on June 8, 1913.

In early 1930s the fate of the old Deutsches Stadion was sealed. Berlin was famously granted another go at the organisation of the Summer Olympic Games ten years after the first, failed time. Before the 1936 Berlin Olympics Hitler’s planners, with Albert Speer as their front man, decided the city needed a new sports stadium and surrounding facilities. The task of designing them went to none other than Otto March sons, Werner March: he became the architect of the Olympiastadion. Prior to that, in the mid-1920s, together with his brother, Walter March, he held the title of the main architect of what was later refurbished and extended to become the Reichssportfeld (now “Olympiapark Berlin”). By 1936 Berlin’s Olympiastadion replaced Otto March’s Deutsches Stadion.

Olympiastadion in August 1936 (image Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R82532)


You can read more about Berlin’s fascinating sport history and about its forgotten sites and heroes in “Notmsparker’s Second Berlin Companion” available via as well as at the excellent “Hundt Hammer Stein” bookshop in Alte Schönhauser Str. 23/24 in Berlin-Mitte or at the beautiful General Store “Hallesches Haus” in Tempelhofer Ufer 1 in Berlin-Kreuzberg.


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