Monday, November 12, 2007

Olympia - Stratford Style

“Ooh, goody, mummy's made uth a lubbly blancmange in the shape of the new Olympic Stadium.”
“Oh, no, darling, it's just that the stadium was designed by the same people that make the jelly moulds.”
“I thee.”
The design for the new stadium has garnered praise from the builders, the designers, and the over-compensated Olympic Committee, who have voted themselves a “performance bonus” on the strength of it. That, together with the five star rating from the Association of Jelly Mould Manufacturers for the most innovative jello pudding of the year, will assure its success and all of you have paid for it can keep your opinions to yourselves, thank you very much! Who asked you?
It so happens that, as part of my research for a book concerning Germany between the wars, I viewed some of the films of Leni Riefenstahl. One of these was her coverage of the Berlin Olympics in 1936, “Olympia,” and even the opening ten minutes where the camera wanders through the ruins of ancient Greece are worth the price of admission. By any stretch of the imagination, it is a marvellous work that conveys the impressive organisation and planning that the Nazis put into this showpiece for the regime.
A. Hitler Esq., was a pretty nasty piece of work but he and his satraps knew how to hold a party!
The stadium itself was something that the Greeks might well have been proud of with much natural stone used in the construction as well as the inevitable concrete. It was a gracious building set in park like surroundings, the stadium alone having seating for 110,000. Werner Mazch was the architect and he managed to avoid some of the excesses that Albert Speer might have been tempted into.
If the British Olympic committee wished to record the proceedings, they would do well to find a latter day Leni Riefenstahl but, given the lack of taste shown so far, they would probably plump for Michael Winner, with an opening sequence of him arriving in his Rolls Royce with a popsie on each arm. This could be followed by shots of him with his arm around a short order chef from one of the food outlets to go with a revue in the Sunday Times.
The Berlin Stadium still stands. When I visited it some years ago it was about to be refurbished. Remarkably, it suffered little damage during the war and only the bell tower is lost, burned down in a later fire.
It is a popular sporting venue and is in constant use.
But of course, they didn't build it in Stratford, E.15.


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