Sunlight filters through the plexiglass roof slung low and scatters on the blue water. The stands have people, and swimmers get in and out of the pool, water dripping from their costumes. A plunge where a Jew rose above Black September to make Olympic history costs 3.50 euros.
Munich gets a feel of the water that lapped around Mark Spitz every summer day from 7 am. Opposite to the Olympia-Schwimmhalle is the multi-purpose Olympiahalle where little gymnast Olga Korbut swung from joy to despair and joy again. The Olympiastadion, with a roof that looks like plexiglass hammocks jutting into the azure sky, is not far away. That is where Lassie Viren picked himself up and won a golden long-distance brace, Valerie Borzov took a sprint double, Michael Owen scored a hat-trick for England and Gerd Mueller won the World Cup for Germany. That is also where Rolling Stones will perform on July 16, six days before Eric Clapton.
All of this is part of the Olympiapark in northern Munich. It is a sprawling area with downs, a lake and a tower that took almost three years to build. Those who like looking down on things while eating can do so at the restaurant 181m above sea level. The more intrepid souls can climb to the roof of the Olympiastadion and sling down the 40m between it and the hallowed turf. “All you need is a bit of courage; we will provide you with a rope and a snap hook,” the tour guide says helpfully.
With a Walk of Stars where Carlos Santana and Jon Bon Jovi — among others — have been immortalised, through a hand or a footprint, the park is now a leisure and event centre. And a lesson in how to prevent venues from going to seed after any mega event ends.
Every part of it is used either for exhibitions, concerts or programmes ranging from streetball, beachball to seminars. That keeps the facilities in good condition and generates revenue. The park’s website says “157 million paying visitors” have passed through its gates since the Games.
The Coubertin Platz is milling with people on a pleasant Saturday morning. Most of them are in white or red of Germany and chanting ‘Deutschland, Zuper Deutschland’ — set mysteriously to the Clementine tune — ‘Poldi’, ‘Klose’ or ‘Ballack’. But there are also those in bright yellow Sverige (Sweden) shirts. Someone with ‘Fat Bob from England’ written on his back and hordes of tourists who look Japanese, Korean or Chinese give the place an international feel.
But everybody is talking one sport here.
The park is now a fan area and, some eight hours before the 5 pm kick-off between Germany and Sweden, is teeming with people. It is too early for the music and the entertainment but the beer’s flowing, the steak’s available and so people don’t mind. They laze in the sun or sit on the steps that lead to the giant screen in the fan area.
The more energetic ones go about kicken (a kickabout) in an arena that’s right for a five-a-side game. The ones trailing play bare-chested just as they do back home. Even some of football’s unwritten rules are truly international.