Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna
The Biggest Football Stadium of Austria
I am not a football fan myself whatsoever, so writing an article on the stadium of Vienna is a bit of an excursion into foreign terrain. Let me start with a short linguistic explanation: The term "stadium" translates into German as "Stadion". The word "Stadium" exists in German, too, but means only "state". So if you talk about a football stadium, it is a "Fußball Stadion" in German.
The Ernst Happel Stadium is the biggest sports stadium in Austria and situated in the Prater area of the second district, the Leopoldstadt. It has a capacity of 52,000 people and is a stadium of the "five star category". It is the official venue for national football games, games of the UEFA-Cup and the Champions League. The stadium belongs to the city of Vienna, which uses it as an administrative office place. Apart from football matches, there are also a range of other high-key sport events being held in the stadium - alongside with the occasional concert. For the latter, an additional 19,000 seats can be added on the sports grounds.
The construction of the stadium falls into the prime of the "Red Vienna" period, when the Social Democrats had a firm grip on the capital: It was started in 1928 upon the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of the republic and finished in 1931. The opening event was the "Second International Labourer′s Olympic Games" - no idea what that is, but it sound rather soviet to me. Might have involved disciplines like marathon-waving of red flags, throwing spears at capitalists and a collective gold medal for all participants.
Happel-Stadium in WWII: Collection Spot for Deportions
The architect in charge was Otto Ernst Schweizer, who also planned the Stadionbad swimming pool next to the stadium. The original capacity was 60,000 - nevertheless, the stadium could be evacuated within seven minutes, earning the facility a reputation for being the most modern stadium in Europe. From the beginning, the stadium was also popular for political mass events, at first mostly by the Social Democrats, later by the conservative Christian Democrats.
After the Anschluss, the stadium was confiscated by the Nazis and used by the "Planungsbüro" of the Wehrmacht. Later, it occasionally served as a collection point for Jewish citizens before they were deported to concentration camps. In 1944, the stadium was severely damaged by bombs. After the war, it was soon repaired and used for sport events again.
Extensions & Modernisation after WWII
According to plans by the architect Theodor Schöll, the capacity was extended to an impressive 93,000 people. The record of visitors was 91,000 at a game Austria versus Spain in 1960. It is worth noting that the Austrian national football team was a lot better than it is now until well after WWII - it became very bad only in the past few decades.
In 1965, the number of seats was reduced considerably. In 1986, another modernisation followed: Most standing ticket areas got seats and the viewer′s space was covered with a roof. When the legendary Austrian football player and former coach of the national team Ernst Happel died in 1992, the stadium was named after him: "Ernst Happel Stadion".
Important championships that were held in the stadium include the finals of the UEFA Champions League in 1964, 1987, 1990 and 1995 - as well as the final (among other games) of the UEFA Euro 2008, the European Championship. For this, the stadium was modernised, got its own subway link. The costs for the modernisation only were approximately 40 million Euros and left the stadium with new media facilities, parking lots, seating and heating for the lawn.
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