Faster, Higher, Stronger—the Olympic motto could be applied to these stadiums which boast feats of architecture and engineering that are as inspiring as the sporting events they hosted

1. Olympiastadion, Munich, Germany

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Günter Behnisch's Olympiastadion Munich, Photo from iStock
Above Günter Behnisch's Olympiastadion Munich (Image: iStock)

Constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Olympiastadion was built to present a new face for post-war Germany. Stuttgart firm Behnisch and Partners won the contest to design the stadium with a strikingly modern look echoing the peaks and valleys of the nearby Alps. The concept for the stadium itself was derived from ‘earth stadiums’ commonly built in Eastern Europe so that space for the field and seating for 90,000 spectators would be carved out of the ground instead of built above it.

For the suspended roofs which tied the entire complex together, engineer Frei Otto was brought on the project. Working together with B+P, Otto helped to devise a scheme for tensile roofs of steel cable and acrylic panels, spanning the Olympic site like an enormous tent. Deliberately translucent, the canopy shelters the athletes and spectators without obscuring lines of sight or cast uneven shadows in televised footage.

See also: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Pandelela Rinong, We'll Always Have Your Back

2. Olympic Athletic Center of Athens, Greece

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Santiago Calatrava's Olympic Athletic Center of Athens, Photo from iStock
Above Santiago Calatrava's Olympic Athletic Center of Athens (Image: iStock)

Located in the birthplace of the Olympic Games, the Athens Olympic Stadium was originally built in 1982 and extensively refurbished for the 2004 games to include a majestic roof structure composed of two 45 m high arches. This distinctive addition was the work of Santiago Calatrava, the famous Spanish architect widely known for his sculptural bridges and buildings. The triumphant arcs symbolised the city’s entry into the 21st century and the desire to reimagine Athens by placing a new, modern landmark next to the long-established monument of the Acropolis.

Four entrance plazas provide ceremonial access to the complex. Each entrance is roofed with a vaulted steel canopy to provide a clear identifying element. At night, these illuminated canopies serve both as orientation devices and as attractions in themselves. Aside from designing the roof, Calatrava designed a host of other facilities on his own initiative which include the Agora complex, a central Plaza of the Nations and his own version of an Olympic cauldron.

See also: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Nur Dhabitah Sabri, The Girl With The OIympic Smile


3. Beijing National Aquatics Center, China

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PTW Architects' Beijing National Aquatics Center - Photo from iStock
Above PTW Architects' Beijing National Aquatics Center (Image: iStock)

The National Aquatics Center is located in the Olympic Green, the focal point of the 2008 Beijing Games and next door neighbours to the Bird's Nest (Beijing National Stadium). Known as the Watercube for its angular structure and blue bubble facade, the massive complex was designed by PTW Architects (Australia) and its concept combines the symbolism of the square in Chinese culture and the natural structure of soap bubbles translated into architectural form.

Using state-of-the-art technology and materials, the building is not just visually striking but also energy-efficient and ecologically friendly.The Watercube exterior is made up of a transparent dual-ETFE cushion envelope that gives it its bubble-like appearance while allowing in natural light and capturing solar energy to heat the interior spaces and pools. Water efficiency is achieved by rainwater harvesting, recycling, efficient filtration and backwash systems where the swimming pool water is captured and reused.

See also: Malaysian Architect Serina Hijjas Discusses Legacy And Sustainability

4. Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan

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Kenzo Tange's Yoyogi National Gymnasium - Photo from iStock
Above Kenzo Tange's Yoyogi National Gymnasium - Photo from iStock

Built for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Yoyogi National Gymnasium was designed by one of Japan’s most famous modernist architects, Kenzo Tange. A hybrid of western modernist aesthetics and traditional Japanese architecture, the gymnasium's low profile and sweeping roof forms resemble an abstracted Japanese pag