Berlinís historic Olympic Stadium unveiled
TWIG - There will be music and fireworks at Berlinís newly refurbished Olympic Stadium this Saturday as the historic arena is officially unveiled after an extensive overhaul.
Around 70,000 guests are expected to attend the huge reopening party at a venue with a singularly loaded history.
The imposing grey granite and limestone stadium is remembered by many as the place where Jesse Owens made a mockery of Adolf Hitlerís beliefs of Aryan supremacy by winning four track and field gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.
Now home to the German capitalís top soccer club, the 76,000-seat arena has undergone a four-year, 240-million-Eur ($290 million) renovation to prepare it to host the 2006 soccer World Cup finals.
The refurbished stadium boasts a new state-of-the-art roof and lighting system, but still looks much the way it did when it was built for the 1936 Olympics.
That is no accident, said German Interior Minister Otto Schily, whose portfolio covers sports.
"The Berlin Olympic Stadium of today represents Germanyís historical change, and at the same time maintains the necessary reminders of the dark side of its origin," Schily said in a statement.
Contractors said that a sleek U-shaped roof extending out over the seats toward the pitch offsets the stadiumís heavy granite walls, giving a lighter feel to rows of dark grey seats.
Six extra rows of seats were added, along with 113 new VIP boxes. All of it is illuminated by floodlights capable of lighting the pitch as if it were daylight ó with no glare or shadows.
In a bid to explain the arenaís dark past, there will now be a permanent museum at the main entrance and 35 historical plaques throughout the venue.
Germanyís federal government paid about 200 million Eur ($240 million) of the total costs for a refit that was not without a number of challenges.
Renovation work proceeded at a snailís pace as workers painstakingly renovated one section of the stadium at a time while the rest stayed open for Hertha Berlin soccer matches and other events.
Workers also discovered a huge Word World II bomb beneath a section of the stadium and had to halt work until the bomb squad could defuse it.
Sports fans can get their first taste of the stadiumís new atmosphere at a friendly soccer match between Germany and Brazil on September 8.
But the stadiumís real moment in the sun will come when it hosts the World Cup finals on July 9, 2006.
"The world will again look at Berlin and its stadium," said
Schily. "But in 2006 it will look at Germany as a modern, democratic country
open to the world."
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