Amsterdam Olympic Stadium – The Former Part-Time Home of Ajax
In 1996, Ajax closed a long, historic chapter on a stadium that has become a forgotten relic. The Amsterdam Olympic Stadium may have only been used on special occasions by the club, but those special occasions were truly unique when Ajax took to the pitch.
Opened in 1928 for the Summer Olympics, the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium was created due to the city’s lack of a large venue with a running track. The venue was used during the games to house the athletics events and give the city a showpiece stadium for the Summer Olympics.
Once the Olympics had finished, a number of high-profile sporting events were held at the stadium over the years, including the start of the 1954 Tour de France. The Amsterdam Olympic Stadium’s most important post-Olympic event was always football. However, it wasn’t Ajax who first used the arena as a home, rather it was Blauw Wit and BVC Amsterdam. The two capital clubs would later merge and form FC Amsterdam in 1972. The club continued to play its matches at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, but in 1982, one month shy of the club’s 10th anniversary, FC Amsterdam was folded.
In 1934, Ajax moved to De Meer Stadion. There was a problem with the venue, however. De Meer could only hold 19,000 fans, although reports of nearly 30,000 watching matches do exist. In addition to the stadium’s capacity and safety concerns, De Meer did not possess floodlights, which meant Ajax were unable to play midweek fixtures.
Rather than increase the size and safety of De Meer or install lighting, Ajax agreed to play their midweek fixtures and European matches at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium. In addition, other big Ajax matches were also played at the national stadium.
The venue was the host to legendary Ajax teams and the great Johan Cruyff. If the walls of the stadium could speak, it would surely tell some of the most fascinating stories of Cruyff and Ajax as they marched through European competitions.
Between 1968 and 1972, Ajax played in four consecutive European Cup finals. Those four seasons saw each home match played at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, and supporters were treated to some of the most thrilling football in the world.
In all, the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium was the European home to Ajax for seven successful European campaigns and three more that didn’t end in trophies. The club achieved cup wins in the European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup while playing their fixtures in the national venue. It was truly a home away from home for Ajax.
The club’s last European campaign while playing in the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium came in 1995-96. Ajax defeated Borussia Dortmund and Panathinaikos on their way to the Champions League final. However, disappointment was found in Rome as the club lost on penalties to Juventus.
The loss on Italian soil marked the end of Ajax and the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium; as the club moved into the Amsterdam Arena the next season. The story of the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium and Ajax is a unique one. It wasn’t the team’s official stadium, yet it was just as synonymous with the club as the De Meer Stadion – and in a way, more so.
The Amsterdam Olympic Stadium still stands today and has become a registered national monument in The Netherlands.