Date: 31 July 2021 / Attendance: me
In A Nutshell
Think Poznan and you think Lech, but in a quietly posh suburb to the west find a bewildering behemoth of a stadium that once served as the home of Lech’s cross-city rivals, Olimpia.
Formed in 1945, Olimpia were dissolved in 2005 essentially for the very good reason that both money and interest had generally run dry. That’s curious when you think of their history – though not as storied as Lech, nor for that matter Warta Poznan, Olimpia weren’t too shabby: as recently as 1990 they finished the season fifth in the top flight and reached the cup semi-final the following year.
Built in the early 50s, the stadium bears the vague hallmarks of the Socialist Realist style of the era – grand turnstiles, bizarre Communist mosaics and an imperial bowl structure that would look stunning when full. Poke around a little more, and other bits and pieces reveal themselves, not least some dusty beer vending units and temporary stands ready to be rolled into action.
Currently reserved for speedway and American gridiron (though also bearing football pitch markings), its scale can’t fail but impress – actually, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the ground saw huge rallies of Jehovah’s Witnesses not that long ago and to some degree they’re credited with keeping the stadium from falling into total ruin.
I turned up assuming the stadium would be locked-up, so spent close on an hour ‘casing the joint’ for an entry point – so yeah, I was a little peeved to return to where I’d started my reconnaissance only to find that the main gate had actually been open all the time – repeat after me, Webber is a moron.
Allowed to walk inside unmolested, I spent the next hour exploring every corner, treading over the vast banks of overgrown terracing – complete with a ready-made away end, a majestic scoreboard and a precariously balanced commentary box you get the idea it wouldn’t take that much investment to get it back to the standard needed to host football – considering that Warta Poznan have been banished out-of-town as their own ground doesn’t meet league requirements, it seems nonsensical that no-one appears to have considered reviving this forgotten landmark.
Part of a wider sports complex, find also a sterile-looking hotel adjoining the stadium, as well as athletics facilities next door and a rich spread of tennis courts – while I was snooping around the place, it seems that Bjorn Borg was down the road hosting a tennis tournament. Anyhow, if you’re in Poznan, it’s an essential diversion for any stadium enthusiast.
Out & Around
It’s a lovely part of Poznan that makes for an interesting 40-minute walk from the centre. Doing so, you’ll be passing lavish pre-war villas and heading through the city’s most scenic park: Solacki. A tranquil enclave of wildlife and picnicking couples, this long, narrow strip of parkland is home to no shortage of art students hunched over easels in the lush, landscaped gardens.
Fleetingly known as Stalin Park, today it’s a place of billiard green lawns and ribboning pathways: amid the foliage, find remnants of the past such as pre-war tram waiting cabins and a racy sculpture depicting two naked women entwined in sensual embrace – phwoar! Further on, a bit beyond the stadium itself, a walk around the woods that fringe Lake Rusalka completes your afternoon chillout.