Olympiastadion - A modern masterpiece in Bavaria
© Popper Foto

The history of the Olympiastadion in München is inextricably linked with the goal-scoring exploits of Gerd Der Bomber Muller. Who else but Germany's all-time leading goal scorer could have christened the stadium in such sensational style on 26 May 1972? Inspired by 80,000 awed fans, the nimble, stocky striker scored four against the Soviets, who could only add a meaningless consolation goal in a 4-1 drubbing.

München's Olympiastadion is truly one of the most extraordinary stadia in all the world. A living example of functionality combined with stylised architecture, even if some have come to consider it dated - owing largely to the distance between the spectators and the pitch. The 75,000-square-metre roof, once heralded as an architectural milestone, still enchants visitors today.

A national architectural competition was launched in autumn 1967 to find the right people for such a daunting project. In 1966, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1972 Olympic Games to Munich, a city bereft of any major sporting venues. The Olympiastadion was created over a period of six years, surrounded by a vast park landscape with an 80,000-square-metre lake. The unlikely three-square-kilometre site was the Oberwiesenfeld, formerly used for Royal Bavarian Army exercises and later converted into an airport. The winning design was submitted by architects Günter Behnisch and partners whose idea for the sweeping roof, a pioneering concept in design and technology, became an established fixture in global architecture. The Olympiastadion was Munich innovative architectural answer to its Berlin namesake constructed for the Olympics back in 1936.

Precisely three months after the opening match, 80,000 spectators poured into the stadium once again on 26 August 1972 to watch the sun-drenched opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and the entrance of the 121 participating nations.

Olympics and FIFA World Cup landmarks
The Olympiastadion has repeatedly been called upon as a stage for major national and international sporting events and has welcomed almost 50 million spectators through its turnstiles over the years. The pitch is 105 x 68 metres and has an automated sprinkler system and under-soil heating. The current normal capacity is 63,000.

Besides the Olympic Games in 1972, the Olympiastadion will be forever remembered as the site of the Germany 74 final on 7 July when hosts Germany overcame hot favourites Holland.

Reigning European champions Germany were strongly favoured going into the 1974 tournament, but mediocre performances in the group stage compared with Johan Cruyff & Company's 'Clockwork Orange' saw them soon ranked as outsiders for the ultimate contest. The Oranje team had been outstanding throughout the competition and took the lead against Germany with barely two minutes on the clock. Uli Hoeness brought down Cruyff and Johan Neeskens made no mistake from the penalty spot. Germany responded in the 25th minute courtesy of another penalty. The outstanding Paul Breitner seized the ball before tucking it away to restore parity at 1-1.

And when Gerd Muller finished off some fine work from Jurgen Grabowski and Rainer Bonhof in inimitable fashion for a 2-1 lead two minutes before the interval, Germany were world champions and the Netherlands were shell-shocked. Muller recalls: "I got back on the ball, turned and just hit it, and it went in. It was that simple. My goal winning us the World Cup was the most important event in my career, even though I scored more goals four years earlier," the legendary striker said recently. The next Dutch generation has better memories of Munich's Olympiastadion - they triumphed 2-0 there against the Soviet Union in the final of the 1988 UEFA European Championship. Marco van Basten's magical volley into the corner of the net will never be forgotten.

Club surprises
In 1993, Olympique Marseille won the Champions League final against favourites AC Milan through a solitary Basile Boli goal. Another upset followed four years later when Borussia Dortmund defeated Champions League favourites Juventus 3-1 in the final. The stadium has seen the world's best teams over the course of its history.

Renowned clubs such as Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United have all met Bayern Munich in the awe-inspiring arena, while memories of the UEFA Cup semi-final from 1988/1989 against Diego Maradona's SSC Napoli still bring a tear to the eye. From the start of the 2005/06 season, Bayern Munich have played their football at the FIFA World Cup Stadium in the north of the city.

In many ways, the successes of Bayern Munich also belong to the Olympiastadion: 18 championships, 11 DFB Cups, four European Champions Cups or Champions Leagues (1974, 1975, 1976 and 2001), the 1976 European team of the year and FIFA World Club Champions, a feat repeated in 2001.