Saturday 1 September 2012

Picture Post number three - Olympic Stadium Helsinki

Helsinki by Yekkes

In London everyone is in Olympic and Paralympic mode. Although I have managed to see a range of events, (read about them here and here), I haven't yet been able to secure a ticket for the main stadium. Ironically I have been inside two other Olympic stadiums - Barcelona, host in 1992 and Helsinki, host in 1952. I should add that I didn't attend either of these Games - I couldn't afford to go to Barcelona in 1992 and I wasn't born in 1952!

I visited Helsinki in April 2009 over the Easter holiday weekend. It was very cold - there were large chunks of ice floating in the sea - now that's cold, but we kept warm through eating large portions of filling Finnish food and, at least in my case, lots of coffee and Finnish pastries. The Seahorse restaurant was the best - hearty portions of chicken liver for me... 

Helsinki is an interesting place. They drink more coffee per head than any other country in Europe and they like it stronger than anyone else does. I must be a little bit Finnish. They also have the lowest rate of church attendance in Europe but closed just about everywhere over the Easter holiday - including the Russian Orthodox Church -  and also the lakeside modernist opera house. I did however see lots of beautiful jugendstil buildings and wonderful art by the iconic Gallen-Kallela as well as visiting one of his homes outside the city and also a great restaurant called Kosmos, the interior of which was partly designed by Aalto

Back to the Olympic Stadium. It's open to visitors and there is a good museum of the 1952 Olympics which also features Finnish sporting heroes from other times including the great Paavo Nurmi, Lasse Viren, Tiina Lillak and many others. The wonderful modernist tower pictured above is usually open for visitors and apparently gives great views across the city. Apparently - because you guessed it, it was closed for the Easter holiday on the day I visited. That didn't prevent me from enjoying its beautiful clean white crisp lines against the deep blue spring sky of northern Europe.

The stadium was completed in 1938 and took four years to build. It was intended to host the 1940 Olympics which of course were cancelled due to the Second World War. The architects were Yrjo Lindegren and Toivo Jantti. Lindgren also won the architecture grand prix at the 1937 World Fair in Paris, but sadly died just before the 1952 Games took place. The stadium is in regular use today.

For more pictures of Helsinki look here.

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