I discovered in high school that I think best when I am moving… so since today gave me three things I wanted to tackle, I decided to solve all of those with one walk: a chance to think through a work mess, a chance to try out my shiny new camera, and a chance to enjoy the sunny day :)
I felt like exploring. So I on purpose didn’t think about an intended destination, and instead simply followed one of the many canals that crisscross Amsterdam.
An hour later… I ended up ‘stumbling’ onto the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium.
Built for the 1928 Summer Olympics, it is a red brick structure that is built solidly in the art deco style favored by the architects of the time: clean lines, a blend of industry and fine arts. Even the bridges that span the canal that leads you to the stadium has images adorning them that has the blend of heavy figures and the detail of elegant and abstract forms.
It must have been a fascinating time to be an Olympic athlete, or even an attendee! Europe was shifting, changing… wealthy and rebuilt after WWI and yet from our perspective today, we know also poised for economic collapse and renewed war.
As I circled the red brick oval, there was only silence. No crowds on the pavements carefully laid around it. No cheering or applause. Only the sound of the orange flags flapping in the breeze.
It made me think of the end of the Olympics and what happens when it’s over – when the months, years of preparation have reached their culminating goal and the crowds go home.
The Amsterdam Stadium is empty – people who want to use the track for a run jump the fence next to boards proudly declaring the names of Dutch Olympic medal winners, there are companies in the ground floor who rent out the spaces as offices, and the welcoming statue of an athlete is no longer saluting the emperor in the way the gladiators and performers of ancient Rome
did in those ancient stadiums, but saluting the upcoming Leonord Cohen concert that will be held in there. Across the street are apartment buildings with hair salons at street level. There’s a car wash on one corner.
There’s a melancholia to the place. Or maybe it was my mood…
The mood and the feeling was enhanced by the beautiful statue of Prometheus by Fred Carasso (1947) outside – a tribute to athletes who lost their lives in the Second World War.
In many ways the Olympics is like a relationship – a tough process of courting, and then when you are lucky enough to be selected… a long journey of changing the landscape of your life so that you can be ready for The Big Day. And then that Big Day comes… and goes… and you are left with the red bricks and quiet stands.
When it’s all over… where does the adoration of the fans go? What happens to the love that used to fill the space? Yes, the building can be re-used, can be re-adapted. The athletes can retire or go back to practice for the next chance at the gold. The emotions shift and heal. But does it only become a Wikipedia entry? Or does it leave behind something tangible in our emotional universes?