Sunday 5th October 2008 ko 15.00
DJURGÅRDENS I.F. 3 (Komac 20 Rajalakso 43 Quirino 90)
G.I.F. SUNDSVALL 1 (Patricksson 85)
Att 5,012 at Stockholms Stadion
Pennant 69 sek (approx. £6.90)
Badge FREE (“Because you are a guest”)
There aren’t many hard and fast rules in groundhopping, but the unpopularity of football grounds with running tracks is more or less universal. However, every rule should have an exception, and the Stockholms Stadion is definitely one. It was built from 1910-1912 for Stockholm’s hosting of the Olympic games in 1912, and was the first Olympic Stadium in the modern era to be permanent, architect Torben Grut actually changing the design away from a temporary wooden structure during construction. Even now the stadium seems unaltered by time, the floodlights are anchored outside of the stadium’s fabric, the 1990 facelift freshening up the place without altering its innate nature.
The stadium was used for athletics, equestrian, and some of the football competition, here’s some footage.
The Olympics did return here in 1956, when quarantine regulations meant the equestrian events couldn’t be held in the host city of Melbourne.
Once the Olympics was over a football team moved in, in a seeming precursor to the London 2012 Olympic Stadium situation. You’d have thought it would have been Djurgårdens, but they were happy enough to continue to play at Tranebergs Idrottsplats, that stadium had hosted 3 games of Olympic football after all. Their cross-town rivals A.I.K. moved in, and stayed until 1937 when they moved to the newly-built Råsunda Stadium. It was then that Djurgårdens moved in, their lease at Tranebergs having expired, and remain associated with the ground today. Football was never a particularly easy fit for the ground, the capacity is low, currently 14,500, and even the biggest attendance for football here for Djurgårdens vs A.I.K. was only 21,995 on 16th August 1946.
That meant that the club playing the majority of its home games during the 50’s and 60’s at the Råsunda, and even when they returned in the 70’s, all big matches continued to be switched to the Råsunda, a fact that caught out a few hoppers I know! To date the club has actually played more games at the Råsunda than at Stadion (300 against 299 to be precise!) In the end the Swedish FA realised that the stadium was no longer suitable for top-flight football, and forbade the club from using it after 2013.
The club looked at building their own ground, at another 1912 Olympic venue the Östermalm Athletic Grounds, but once it became clear than the costs were far too high for them, they moved to the new Tele-2 Arena, to share with Hammarby, playing their last game at the Olympic Stadium beating Öster 2-0 on 13th July 2013. The youth team still use the Athletic Grounds, and the club maintains its office in one of the Olympic Stadium’s two towers.
So what was it like? Just breath-taking, even on a horrible wet autumn day where my evening game was called off due to waterlogging even though it was on 3G! There were so many things wrong with the place, the roof doesn’t cover half the seats, there are a multiplicity of pillars, and yes, that running track! However those pillars are wooden, and reminded me of the posts of a tepee. There’s the towers at the northern end, evoking a church but just look at the Royal Box, in the style of a Chinese pagoda, and the arch at the southern end where the marathon runners still enter the stadium for three-quarters of a lap each year during the Stockholm Marathon, echoing their forefathers over a century earlier.
My game saw mid-table Djurgårdens beat a relegation-destined Sundsvall without really having to make more effort in front of the television cameras. I remember no one taking any notice of the numbers allocated on their tickets, and making quickly for the cover, not difficult when the stadium is only a third full. The programmes seemed to be used more for padding on the hard wooden benches, than for reading, but please forgive me for not telling you more about the game. Yes, it is six years ago, but even it had have been yesterday I still would be no better off, the place did, and looking back at these photos does, take my breath away.
Fortunately, the stadium is still there, it has byggnadsminne, or listed status, and is still used for athletics, although the larger meetings bypass here now, the stadium track has only 6 lanes. For the football fan it isn’t quite over, as Djurgårdens women’s team play here, but it is worth checking the location before travelling, as during June, July, and August games do get switched to Kristinebergs IP when athletics takes precedence. Don’t expect a crowd either, normal crowds for the second tier of the women’s pyramid, the Elitettan, are around 200, and I note the derby against Hammarby saw a crowd of 563.
Still, that should give you plenty of scope to explore this most special of stadia. I promise you, there is nothing quite like it.