Getting ready for London 2012
It seems like it was only yesterday when the Chinese impressed the world with the majestic closing ceremony of Beijing 2008. Sadly, time flies and the countdown for London 2012 is almost over.
Decades after the 1948 Olympics, Britons have an incomparable opportunity to show that their empire might have vanished, but their power and their ability to exceed expectations through innovation is still there, updated with current tendencies, and ready to face the complex challenge.
Architecture is the key word in this task. Only through a magnificent stadium can the forthcoming games stand at the very top of historic Olympics.
Architecture and Olympics have always had a tight relationship, especially since Munich 1972, and every nation has tried to show the best of themselves by building breathtaking avant-garde structures.
Some have failed—shamefully, Atlanta falls into this category. However, many have succeeded—Barcelona, Beijing, Munich, Athens, the list is long and full of supreme examples of art.
No memorable architecture, no memorable Olympics, no significant legacy. It's as easy as that.
Let's take a look at the greatest Olympic Stadiums ever built.
Historic Art Moderne, an American classic
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, used twice as Olympic venue in 1932 and 1984, may be old, but never obsolete. A few updates and it can still be regarded as one of the finest sport venues in America.
The city of angels can be proud of having one of the largest examples of late Art Deco, the Art Moderne. John and Donald Parkinson immortalized their names in the home field of the USC Trojans.
Originally not intending to do so, the California based architects were among the first to create impressive Olympic venues.
Before the 1980 Olympics, Soviet Russia was a rather unknown place for most westerners. A series of prejudices was all we knew, or at least thought we knew, about what was going on behind the "Iron Curtain."
The Moscow Games attempted to improve the image of the country, to show its progress, to appeal to the triumph of Marxism-Leninism. Having these elevated ambitions, the old Stadion Luzhniki had to be completely restored.
Like it or not, the stadium reflected what Soviets wanted us to see, a mighty, strong structure, standing for a mighty, strong state.
The first Games of the millennium had to define a new era not only in Olympics, but in mankind. The task was assigned to the legendary firm Populous, designers of the new Olympic Stadium in London and renovators of Soccer City in Johannesburg.
With an original capacity of 110,000, later reduced to 83,000, the stadium was, at the time, the largest Olympic venue ever built.
More than just Gaudi
There's something about Barcelona that makes the city unique. Maybe it's the beautiful Mediterranean, maybe it's the charming buildings, or maybe it's a combination of both.
Back in the early '90s, the Catalan capital experienced a massive transformation in order to host the 1992 Games.
The Estadi Olímpic De Montjuïc wasn't an exception, as it went through an impressive renovation commanded by Italian Vittorio Gregotti. Everything apart from the facades was completely redesigned.
The venue, located on a beautiful hill, reminds us that Catalan architecture is far more than just Antoni Gaudi.
Simple, functional, architectural masterpiece
Located at the heart of Mexico City's university district, Ciudad Universitaria, the Estadio Olímpico Universitario is a simple, but functional architectural masterpiece.
There aren't any truly revolutionary elements in the building. However, the stadium is beautiful in a classical way, as simple lines define the layout of the complex.
Many excellent examples of Mexican culture were incorporated into the building, creating a perfect, harmonic balance between sports and liberal arts.
Bavaria is without any doubt the most lovely region of Germany. The Alps, the Lederhosen and the Oktoberfest make this state unique.
The stadium was intended to be the centerpiece of the newly built Olympiapark. With such an amazing location, the "Happy Games" were urged to have a host venue that fulfilled the high expectations.
With Günter Behnisch as head architect, the revolutionary construction incorporates acrylic glass with steel cables, creating an astonishing optical experience.
Back to it's origins
There was a time back in 2004, long before the financial struggles and the Greek Tragedy, when Greece appeared to be embracing modernity and looking forward into the future.
OK, it may have just been an illusion, but at least there is a legacy of that wonderful, idyllic time, Santiago Calatrava's Olympic Stadium.
The Spanish architect created an exceptional stadium by combining traditional Greek elements with his own trademark style. What we didn't know at the time was where Greece got the money for such venues—but well, that's another story.
Let's remain tranquil and focus on the greatness of the stadium.
Ahead of its time
Not everything about the Third Reich was terror-inspiring, as many fine examples of modern architecture were constructed under Adolf Hitler's regime. Probably the most astonishing structure is the host venue of the 1936 Olympics in the ever-fascinating Berlin.
Designed by Hitler's head architect, Albert Spreer, and Werner March, the stadium represented the image of Germany that the NSDAP wanted to show the world.
Power and greatness are two elements that characterize Nazi era architecture, and those ideas are clearly shown within the majestic Olympic Stadium.
The Old Wembley. Nostalgia.
The postwar years were difficult for England, thus no new venue was built for the 1948 Games in London, also known as the "Austerity Games."
The Old Wembley Stadium hosted the Games of the XIV Olympiad after some minor refurbishments, but nothing too expensive.
Nevertheless, the "Cathedral of Football," defined by its famous Twin Towers, was one of the most elegantly designed stadiums ever.
It's impossible not to feel a certain nostalgia when watching pictures of the golden years of this historic venue.
No words needed
Beijing 2008 was arguably the finest hour of Chinese architecture. Avant-garde constructions made those games the most impressive ones in history.
The magnificence of the so called "Bird's Nest" shows the emerging power of the ancestral Middle Kingdom. The talent of Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the masterminds behind the Allianz Arena in Munich, combined with the enormous budget assigned by the PRC's Government, resulted in the most astonishing Olympic Stadium ever built.
Much can be criticized about the Chinese Olympics, but the conception of venues was simply brilliant.