Poland stadium lands athletics extravaganza


Poland Stadion Slaski host Athletics Team 2021 Image: Stadion Śląski

Silesian Stadium in Poland has landed the European Athletics Team Championships in 2021 and the same has been awarded to them by the European Athletics Association.

Silesian Stadium is a sports stadium located on the premises of Silesian Park in Chorzów, Poland. The stadium has a fully covered capacity of 55,211 following a redecoration work completed in October 2017. The stadium hosted many Polish national football team matches and for many decades boasted being Poland’s national stadium.

The European Athletic Association is the governing body for athletics in Europe. It is one of the six Area Associations of the world’s athletics governing body World Athletics. European Athletics has 51 members and is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Awarding the above event means Chorzów getting to host another big sporting showpiece. The decision was made exactly one week after Chorzów lost its battle with Rome (Italy) to host the 2024 European Championship in Athletics.

The European Athletics Team Championship is an event that replaced the European Cup in 2008. The national teams are allocated to four divisions. Eight best teams participate in the Super League, which is the highest tier. There is no traditional division into women’s and men’s medal classification, but what counts is the joint effect of the entire national team.

The following teams will participate in the sporting extraordinaire which will take place from June 19th-20th, 2021: Poland (the current title holders), France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Spain and Portugal (First Division champions). The winner of the championship will be the team that will collectively score the most points in all fixtures. The worst team will be relegated to the First Division.

Silesian Stadium

Stadion Śląski (or Silesian Stadium) is a perfect venue for hosting athletics competitions. The most important events held in Chorzów include the Janusz Kusociński Memorial (first one in 2018), and the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial, the first edition of which outside Warsaw took place in 2018. These are significant events in the athletics calendar, the exemplary organization of which provided Chorzów with another big competition.

The European Athletics Association authorities visited Silesian Stadium recently. The Chairman of the organization, Christian Milz, was not only impressed by the venue, but also by the infrastructural development of Silesia. The World Athletics Relays, which will be held in Chorzów in May 2021, will act as a kind of mock-up before the June Athletics Championship.

The Silesian Stadium authorities are also interested in staging one of the Diamond League competitions within a few years. In order to host the same, it will require further financial outlays to give a futuristic touch to the arena. One of the objectives for next year is to open a new conference center.

The World Athletics Relays, known as the IAAF World Relays until 2019, is an international biennial track and field sporting event where teams from around the world compete in relay races, some of which are not part of the standard Olympic program.

The Diamond League is an annual series of elite track and field athletic competitions comprising 15 of the best invitational athletics meetings. The series sits in the top tier of the World Athletics one-day meeting competitions. The inaugural season was in 2010.

Silesian Stadium

Ever since the Silesian Stadium idea was conceived, everything about the facility was huge. The plan of building a central stadium for the Upper Silesian extended urban area was born ahead of WWII but delivering a replica of Berlin’s (Germany) Olympiastadion was obviously scrapped as World War II broke out in 1939. The concept resurfaced in its present form after the WWII was over in 1945 as the stadium was included in Europe’s largest municipal park, the Silesian Park (Poland).

Designed by Polish architect Julian Brzuchowski, the stadium was to be created within a large sunken bowl so that it could host both football and athletics. The giant received the height of 80 rows in the West, where stands where higher than on surrounding sides.

West is also where the facility’s most iconic element was planned, a tower rising 10 floors above the auditorium. Just like floodlights, this element was not ready upon opening. Despite the best of efforts put in by the authorities and the taxpayers opening up their purse strings, the stadium was not built as per the grandiose plans.

Construction began in 1951 and the venue opened its doors in 1956. Floodlights and the tower were ready and operational in late 1950s. But while lighting masts remained until 2009, the tower proved to be outdated far sooner. Designed with administrative use in mind, the whole idea became obsolete after a few decades in operation. Eventually, though, it was pulled down.

When Stadion Śląski was refurbished with 87,000 people in mind, it was Poland’s most majestic stadium having seen crowds in excess of 100,000 on several occasions.

When Poland saw regime change during the ‘90s and all-seater stadia became the norm, the Polish Football Association and the people decided to invest in Śląski’s rehabilitation as it was the best possible solution of boasting at least one large venue for football in harmony with international standards. Between 1995 and 2001, the stadium received a brand new East stand with a hotel attached to it, while the entire remaining old bowl was covered with blue seats, reducing the capacity to 47,202.

The renovation process was then supposed to move towards covering all spectators with a vast canopy. However, the impressively-shaped Saturn 2005 concept was tossed out once Poland was granted hosting rights for Euro 2012. A decision was then taken by the authorities of Upper Silesia to increase capacity of the stands to some 55,000 by adding a second tier to the West side and then cover the whole arena.

The Polish Football Association is the governing body of association football in Poland. It organizes the Polish football leagues, the Polish Cup and the Polish national football team. It is based in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

GMP Architekten and SBP engineers, specialists in tensile cable structures, were entrusted with lending the new design. But, many Poles managed to forget about Euro 2012 before the stadium was delivered. Reconstruction was launched again in 2009 with mid-2011 set as delivery date.

The above delivery date could not be met and in July 2011 the first ever accident at a tensile cable roof occurred, bringing the project to a prolonged standstill. Work restarted as late as 2015 and was not complete until September 2017. Along with extended time-frame, additional costs led to a hike in the budget from PLN 360 million to over 650 million.

Despite several setbacks, the final outcome represents very sensible value (price per seat) for a stadium of such magnitude. Its 50-meter high roof is the largest tensile cable structure in Europe to be covered with polycarbonate (43,000 square meters). With a running track included it takes pride on being Poland’s best venue for large athletic events, potentially including the Olympics, even if that would need additional reconfiguration works. The biggest issue staring the stadium on the face is earning the white elephant tag as the facility boasts no football tenant.

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