TagOlympics

Berlin day 2 itinerary during my 2012 trip

Olympic stadium, as seen from the entry plaza. View all 88 photos in this set.

A Chicago friend designed my two-day Berlin itinerary, whether he knew it or not. He visited Berlin in March 2012 and sent me an email a week before I left for Europe describing in detail the various facets of the city, including transportation, I should visit. This itinerary is a mesh of his suggestions and what I actually did on Friday, August 31, 2012.

Take the S-Bahn to Olympiastadion. Make sure you note all the unused, but remarkably nice platforms. On exiting the station (toward the east) you get some great views of S-Bahn tracks and covered third rail heading into the city. Walk around the east side of the stadium (and think about how this is a place where Adolf Hitler opened the Olympics and the first television broadcast was done of, making a major plot point in the movie Contact).

Olympiastadion S-Bahn station platforms. The U2 line continues, but some trains may terminate at these platforms for events. 

I walked into the Olympic Stadium, walked 80% of its circumference, and noted all of the statues, some of the stelae, and read most of the historical information stanchions. I saw the swimming arena, which is still in use today (it seems to be a membership club, although not exclusive). The diving platform’s stair design has changed noticeably. The stands haven’t changed: they are covered in what looks like moss.

Disqus throwers statue by Karl Albiker. The accompanying sign said it was sculpted to show how powerful and masculine German male athletes (and Germans in general) were.

I then made a long walk to the north and west, past a Berlin football club and equestrian areas, towards the bell tower and Langemarckhalle (which is partly a memorial to the Langemarck battle in WWI, but now an exhibition about how that memorial was a myth and propaganda to encourage students to join the military). The ticket to get into Olympiapark also gets you on the elevator to the top of the bell tower (Glockenturm), giving you splendid views of the city in all directions. In the Maifield between the bell tower and the stadium, men were playing cricket. This humungous grassy area was used for youth rallies during the Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) era. From Wikipedia: “Maifeld (Mayfield) was created as a huge lawn (112,000 square metres, 28 acres) for gymnastic demonstrations, specifically annual May Day celebrations by Hitler’s government.”

Playing cricket in Maifield.

After another long walk, I exited the park and made my way to the U2 Olympia-Stadion station (note how the S- and U-bahn stations have slightly different names). This is where the U-Bahn museum is (it has weird hours, don’t expect it to be open), but before you enter, you can walk around the station house and get some INCREDIBLE views of an U-Bahn rail yard and shops facility.

The dreary-looking Olympia-Stadion station east of the Olympic Park.

Next, my friend told me, ride the U2 inbound to Eberswalder Straße (toward Pankow from Olympia-Stadion on the U2 line), and walk under the tracks a half-block south to the little stand with the tables outside. He wrote to me, “Have a spicy currywurst and a beer. You won’t regret it.” I ate it and drank a Berliner Pilsner and I didn’t regret it.

That spicy currywurst and beer under the U2 tracks. 

Next, walk back up to Danziger Strasse. Get on the eastbound/southeastbound M10 tram toward Warschauer Strasse U+S-Bahn stations. But get off at Frankfurter Tor, not the terminal.

Then, do this walk:

View recommended walk in a larger map

You’ll get a good view of some Soviet architecture on Frankfurter Allee, a cute walk through a gentrifying neighborhood with tons of lovely little shops, then see the massive, gritty S-Bahn station, the M10 Tram terminal, and the U-Bahn elevated terminal. (You’ll also walk past the hipster hotel my friend stayed in, Hotel Michelberger.) Then, you’ll end up seeing the Berlin Wall and East Side Gallery just before you cross the water from East Berlin into West Berlin – a profound act, to my friend, considering that it was not possible when we were born – and have a nice walk under the U1 el tracks up to a great elevated station.

Soviet architecture.

The beautiful Oberbaum Bridge taken from the north bank of the River Spree, near the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. 

I didn’t walk under the U1 el tracks, but instead walked west along the East Side Gallery and then north on Andreasstraße. I stopped at a grocery store to get some grub and then boarded the U5 at Strausberger Platz, changing at Alexanderplatz U+S Bahnhof to the U8, getting off at Pankstraße and walking a block to the apartment I was staying in.

Artwork on the Berlin Wall. 

The name “Pankstrasse” written in a cool typeface.

N.B. I bought a day pass to use all transit minus Regio, IC, ICE intercity train service. I could use buses, trams, U-bahn, and S-bahn. I never waited more than 9 minutes for a train or tram. The average wait was probably 3-4 minutes. The day pass cost me $8.20. I was given access to a bicycle, which I rode on Thursday night with my hosts, but after walking around and taking transit all day, I declined to get it. I felt that I would be able to get around the city just as fast (or faster) by taking transit (yes, shocking, I know). I also wanted to ride lots of trains. Here’s the full gallery of photos from the day.

Evidence of “Olympic change” in Rio’s favelas

I have never read Al Jazeera’s English edition until yesterday. I think I saw a post to this article on Twitter; it’s about how construction for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Rio, Brasil, is already removing parts of the favelas, or hillside shantytowns. The article is quite relevant for me because I wrote last week about how rising ticket prices threaten the egalitarian nature of watching futebol at the Rio’s most famous stadium, the Maracanã. From Al Jazeera:

This week came a series of troubling tales of the bulldozing and cleansing of the favelas, all in the name of “making Brazil ready for the Games”. Hundreds of families from Favela de Metro find themselves living on rubble with nowhere to go after a pitiless housing demolition by Brazilian authorities. By bulldozing homes before families had the chance to find new housing or be “relocated”, the government is in flagrant violation of the most basic concepts of human rights.

As you might expect, residents and planners have different ideas on what it means to remove these homes:

[Eduardo] Freitas doesn’t need a masters from the University of Chicago to understand what is happening. “The World Cup is on its way and they want this area. I think it is inhumane,” he said.

The Rio housing authority says that this is all in the name of “development” and by refurbishing the area, they are offering the favela dwellers, “dignity”.

The same thing has happened all across the United States and is still happening in Chicago. The Chicago Housing Authority, very quickly in the past 10 years, has demolished all of its high-rises (some were converted to condominiums, like Raymond Hilliard Homes at 54 W Cermak, or transferred to different ownership) under the Plan for Transformation. This displaced thousands of residents; some were moved to newly-built multi-flat buildings in specially-designed, mixed-income neighborhoods. But there weren’t enough of these buildings to absorb all of the residents who had to move out of the high-rises. I’m still not clear on where they went.

A favela in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Kevin Jones.

Chicago’s final public housing high-rise was demolished in April 2011.

World Cup and Olympics construction will disadvantage Rio’s poor

It is a scene we see every four years when the Olympics come around: Development that displaces a group of people who lack a good defense, unlike the futebol team they used to pay $1.80 to see.

There used to be a standing-room only general admission area in the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, years ago, but no longer exists today, according to an article yesterday in the New York Times. (Rio will host the 2016 Olympics after beating Tokyo, Madrid, and Chicago.)

The price of tickets is important to cariocas (residents of Rio) because of the stadium’s “role as an egalitarian space in a heavily unequal city like Rio.”

“What could be lost is the nature of the stadium experience as something that cuts across the class segregation of the city as a whole,” Bruno Carvalho said, a Rio native who is an assistant professor of Brasilian studies at Princeton. “Do you give up the vitality of the Maracanã as a public space, a rare type of space in Rio where you can actually get together people of different social classes?”

Members of the National Fans Association understand that safety and comfort upgrades, for which the general admission area was removed, have to be made for an event such as the World Cup 2014, but they want to ensure that other venues under construction be integrated and their designers consult local urban planners and neighborhood groups.

Nine new venues will be constructed for the Rio Olympic Games, and seven venues will be constructed but removed after the closing ceremony. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, thousands of city residents were “relocated.” Some reports say 15,000 moved voluntarily with compensation and another says 300,000 were evicted.

I have a concern that in the next five years, there will be founded accusations of cariocas’ civil rights as “progress” pushes them out of the way.

Photo of the Maracanã stadium by Phil Whitehouse.

Biking to the Chicago Olympics in 2016

What does the Chicago Olympic Committee’s bid book say about bicycling as part of the Olympic transportation system? A system that has to move 15,000 Games workforce, 30,000 athletes and their coaches and support staff, as well as 1.5 million everyday “background” users like you and me commuting? This:

“Travel by bicycles, always welcome in Chicago, will be used practically to augment the plan through the use of bicycle valet service near rail stations.”

The end.

This one line was found under section 15.10, “Public-Transport Network.” It’s public transport-related because the bike valet will be at CTA and Metra stations near the venues. Many of those stations are up to 1.6 miles away, according to the plan. These bicyclists will be expected to ride from hotel or home to the rail station nearest the Olympic venue, park, then board a shuttle bus. 

The worst part of the statement within the bid book is that they felt compelled enough to insert the snide comment that bicycles are “always welcome in Chicago” as if readers may have been confused that Chicago would, in some way, disallow their use during the Olympic Games. Or, perhaps, historically, Chicago didn’t welcome bicycles. With this, I feel the bid book authors have never actually seen bicyclists in Chicago and had to learn this through secondhand communication – this is belittling and dismissive to bicyclists around the world.

The Olympic plan should use bicycling as a mode and opportunity to solve the complicated, expensive, and potentially messy transport issue. Bicyclists should be allowed to ride straight to the gate, which is where they would find bike valet service. And volunteers and staff can ride between gates, venues, and operations centers on bicycles. Instead, Olympic games workers will be driving singly in small SUVs or on Segways just like our public transport and police do now.

A final note on the use of shuttle buses: My concern is where these buses will come from, and what the CTA or other agency will do with them post-Games. According to section 15.11, “Fleet and Rolling Stock,” the Chicago Olympic games “will have access to the Federal Borrowed Bus Program.” What is the FBBP? The internet doesn’t know! A web search reveals one result: an entry on the CTA Tattler blog. No agency in this country has buses they can lend. A table in the bid book following this section, Table 15.11, has a column for transit fleet and rolling stock, and it’s conflicting or confusing. One column indicating the number of vehicles in possession now by various agencies, the next, a number to which these inventories will expand, and the third, the number of additional vehicles on hand for the Games. All rows in the third column indicate that NO additional vehicles will be needed for the Olympic Games – all agencies will have the necessary fleet vehicles to provide transport for the Olympic Games.

I don’t get it.

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