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Olympic Stadium


renovation project of the Olympic Stadium


structural design of the renovation and extension project


Renovations 2016, completed 2020

Looking to the future, respecting the past: The story of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium continues

Wild applause rings out in the Olympic Stadium as Paavo Nurmi runs holding the Olympic flame. The excitement and expectation is tangible through the old photos and recordings. The beautiful functionalist-style stadium was completed already in 1938 for the 1940 Summer Olympics. However, the event had to be cancelled due to the war, and Helsinki was finally able to host the Olympics in summer 1952.

The intense atmosphere of sports competitions and events was replaced by construction dust in winter 2016, as the immense renovation project of the Olympic Stadium began. However, the design work had started three years earlier. With its versatile expertise, Sweco won the public tendering process organised by the City of Helsinki for the structural design of the renovation and extension project of the Olympic Stadium.

The renovation project of the stadium with cultural historical value is an interesting challenge for a designer. According to Sweco project manager Harri Makkonen, responsible for structural renovation engineering, the renovation of the site protected by the National Board of Antiquities was based on not changing the appearance of the Stadium much. What can be repaired, will be. Therefore, the need for more space required planning and mining underground. All of the Stadium’s stands were also covered in connection with the renovation. Building covers which respect the original structures required special expertise in the design of complex steel structures.

“We are renovating a stadium that was built in the 1930s for sports events into a multipurpose arena suitable for the needs of the 2020s. It is a significant change and challenge,” says Jaakko Yli-Säntti, Department Director of Sweco.

Olympiastadionin peruskorjaus

Special project, especially good cooperation

Project Manager Jukka Lallo from the City of Helsinki and the Sweco Project Managers working on the project all agree that the long-term project has been developed in exceptionally good spirits. The cooperation between the customer, designers, and builders has been seamless.

Cooperative big room working improves the fluency and team spirit. Representatives of design, the developer, and contractor have met on a weekly basis to agree on current acquisitions and to solve any surprises which have come up during the project. According to Jukka Lallo, the open conversation between the parties has benefited the entire project. Many problems have been solved by people stopping to ask each other and have discussions.

“The presence of Sweco’s designers on the site repays itself through fewer mistakes and additional costs,” says Lallo.

It has been memorable for the Sweco team to see plans launched years ago turn into reality through cooperation. Large, carefully designed steel structures have been lifted up as the canopies of the stands. The plans for the facilities have turned into actual places. The project is proceeding all the time, and the Olympic Stadium will be renovated true to its value.

“I remember well how amazing it felt to see the extension live for the first time. It was years after we first began to design and think about the underground facilities with the architect,” says Jari Toijonen, who was responsible for the design of the new structures as Project Manager.

The long-term project has included many successes for everyone involved. The Sweco design team has been praised for the quality of the structural plans and holding to the agreed schedule, for example.

Torchbearers of the spirit of the Stadium

Architecture, people, events, Taka-Töölö, disappointed sighs, and tremendous applause. All of these have participated in creating the spirit of the unique Stadium throughout the years. A story which can now continue, thanks to the renovation. Those participating in the project seem to have understood this well.

“All of us have had a clear view of the significance and value of the site all along,” says Project Manager Juha Kukkonen, responsible for the steel structures.

Olympiastadionin peruskorjaus

The Olympic Stadium was chosen as the renovation site of the year in 2019.

Sustainable development has been considered in the project, particularly through conserving construction. Unnecessary demolition work has been avoided, and as much of the old has been repaired as possible. The structures were designed to be durable and easy to maintain. The blocks of rock quarried from the site were transported to Jätkäsaari a few kilometres away to be used as the foundation for new piers. This way, the amount of emissions from their transportation could be reduced.

When the laborious renovation and extension are completed in 2020, it will look from the outside as though nothing has changed. The curved and partially panelled Stadium will look largely the same as it did in 2013, before the renovation. Or, in fact, as it did in 1952 as Paavo Nurmi lit the Olympic Flame and the Helsinki Olympics started. The team has been able to restore the architectural substance of the Stadium and the spirit of the old building. The future will bring more significant and increasingly varying events to the multipurpose arena. The story of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium will continue.