Going for gold in 1912 - Stockholm

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
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Trip End Jul 19, 2012


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What I did
Stockholm's olympic stadium

Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Monday, July 16, 2012

A great advantage of cruising is that you get to visit so many diverse and interesting places in a single trip (or to give it it's technical name, 'voyage’!!). As you are rarely in any one port for more than a day you only really get to see a snapshot of the place. A taster. The benefit being that if you visit a shit hole you know in a few hours you’ll be standing on the aft deck watching land fade away over the horizon thinking to yourself: ‘God, what a shithole. I’m glad we’re well clear of that place. There is no chance of us ever visiting there again!!’

On the other hand, if you like what you see there is nothing stopping you from adding it to your bucket list and returning one day for a longer stay.

During our first every cruise around the Baltic in 2009, Stockholm was added to our bucket list. I had been in Stockholm many times before but for Roisin it was her first visit. Because we only had a limited time, I had suggested we take a water taxi around Saltsjön taking in Gamla Stan (the old town) and the Royal Palace, the Vasa museum and the open-air museum of Skansen. Roisin was impressed with this ‘taster’ of Sweden’s capital city and vowed to return one day for an extended look.

This day was now upon us. Flying SAS from Manchester, we had arranged a visit to Stockholm for 3 nights/4 days staying in Östermalm, a borough in central Stockholm on one of the 14 islands that make up the geography of this city.

Our flight was at 10:35 so it was a leisurely start to the day. This didn’t stop the airport being busy although as it was only mid July this was only classed as a mad rush. The mad, MAD rush wouldn’t start for another few weeks. On entering the arrivals hall we were immediately met by a large queue stretching almost the whole length of the concourse before snaking back on itself.

‘I’m glad we’re not queuing up to check-in for that flight!’ I commented to Roisin. ‘Talk about overbooked. Either that or it must be a very large plane!!’

15 minutes later after we had checked in our baggage, we were now part of this mega queue. This was no check-in line. It was the queue to pass through security!!!  Now if I could get everyone to place their hands on the hips of the person in front, we could all conga through to the departure lounge. I’m sure this would speed things up as well as perhaps get in to the Guinness Book of Records for the longest line to Conga through airport security!!! So far I believe the record is 8!! A bunch of revellers on their way to Dublin for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations complete with novelty Guinness hats!!

45 minutes later we entered the departure lounge. The conga world record was still intact but somehow I had acquired a novelty Guinness hat in the process!!

The flight to Stockholm took 2 hours 40 minutes and was uneventful. In fact it was too uneventful. Something was missing. The drone of the engines? Nope. The cabin crew? Nope. The passengers? Nope…well on second thoughts I had to turn around and check that there were other passengers on board and we hadn’t ventured in to the twilight zone by mistake! No, the passengers were there. They just weren’t talking among themselves!! This is the quietest flight we have ever been on. It was like sitting in a library 30,000 feet in the air!! It was a deadly hush. No distant thumping of MP3 players, no background chatter. Nothing. Ah bliss….peace! As I started to drift off I thought to myself: I wonder if there is a world record for the highest conga ever performed!!!

Roisin later told me that the golden silence was eventually broken by a lone passenger snoring!!

Ålanda airport lies 19km outside the capital. We had booked our bus tickets previously on line. We had no problem in locating Swebus number 867 that would take us from the airport to Stockholm’s Centralen bus and train station. Once again, the library effect had followed us on board. I was scared to speak to Roisin in case a middle-aged woman looking over her horn rimmed spectacles leant over from the seat behind and told me to ‘Shhhh as she turned yet another yellowing page of her Emily Brontë novel!!!’

From Centralen we bought our 3-day travel pass that allows us unlimited travel on buses, ferries and the subway then headed for the T-Centralen metro station that would take us to Östermalm. From there our hotel was only a few hundred yards up Nybrogatan.

Beware the revolving doors that connect the main line City Terminal with the subway/metro (T-Bana). There is a set of ‘double’ revolving doors that seem to revolve at different speeds.  There is not much space between exiting one set and entering the second. With luggage in tow it became even more challenging. Now I know what the contestants in ‘Wipeout’ must feel like!!

In Istanbul I wrote about the Yorkshire influence with the sign that says: ‘Eyüp’. These Yorkshire folk certainly got around as they seemed to have left their mark on every subway in Stockholm with a red sign that says: ‘ Ej upp’!! It seemed to be at the bottom of certain escalators!

The Mornington hotel is a modern clean looking hotel and from our experiences so far in getting here, didn’t surprise us to notice how ‘library-like’ it was. I don’t mean the eerie stillness that hangs over all libraries but for the rows of bookcases complete with aging books and dog-eared paperbacks that adorned the reception area!!

Fresh from watching an episode of Wallander, the Swedish sleuth from Malmö, it wasn’t his ability to solve crime (despite being a miserable git) that intrigued me but that all doors in Sweden seemed to open outwards!! Now was my chance to test the theory to this phenomenon.  I put the key card in the door to our hotel room. Now no matter how hard my brain is telling my hand to pull, my hand seemed to take no notice, as it was used to pushing. So push I did but to no avail. One millisecond later and a sharp tug (of the door!!) we entered room 402 that would be our base for the next 3 nights.

The room was snug but spotless. In fact it was so clean, we couldn’t find the storage space!! There were tea-making facilities that is now becoming more commonplace in mainland Europe. However, the teabag selections ranged from Earl Grey to Melon to Kiwi Fruit.  The hotel staff were very accommodating when we asked for ‘Breakfast Tea’. It brought a smile to my face when the young Swedish reception clerk replied n perfect English with only a hint of accent: ‘Why? Has she only given you those weird ones!!!

It has become customary for me to always check the sporting fixtures prior to travelling. Whether it is Baseball in San Francisco, Ice Hockey in Cologne or football in Sweden. Today I had learned that Djurgåden are playing Norköping at Stockholm’s Stadion, literally a 10-minute walk from our hotel. I have tried to convince Roisin that my preference of this hotel had nothing to do with its proximity to a certain sporting event taking place tonight!!

It was a pleasant stroll up Sturegatan. Many folk we passed were decked in blue and white stripes that I could only guess were the colours of the home team. The floodlights of the stadium soon came in to view peeping over the treetops that populated the wooded area known as Stureparken.

Suddenly, without warning, a gang of home supporters, about 12 in number started chanting stuff. We both turned around to see what we had gotten ourselves in to! To my amusement, the ‘gang’ were all wearing their scarves tied in a knot around their wrist, hands above their heads clapping in time to their chants. If it was meant to be intimidating to the opposing fan, it may have been…in 1975!! The chanting only lasted a few minutes. It stopped once they realised they had been chanting at their own fans!!!

Stockholm’s Stadion was built in 1912 especially to host the 1912 Olympic games. It was fitting that we visit this arena in the shadow to the 2012 London Olympics, exactly 100 years apart.

This stadium has a capacity of only 14,500 with seating for 10,000.  Outer railings surround a concourse that circles the ground. 2 square clock towers dominate one end whilst a narrow roofing structure covers the other the other 3. In 1912 it was only the 5th Olympiad. Word mustn’t have got around that the Olympics had come to town. I have search the ‘net’ and confirm that the is nothing documented about ticketing issues yet by today’s standards there was over a million tickets for sale and no end of problems. There were by comparison only 17 sports compared to about 33 in 2012. In 1912 the tug-o-war had a category all of it’s own. There was even a category for Art!!

‘…and welcome to another edition of Olympics tonight. I have with me here some of our finest athletes who have jumped the furthest or run or swam the fastest. If I can just start with you. What did you win your gold medal for?’

‘Me? Err..painting!!!’

The 1912 summer Olympic games were also known as the sunshine games. 83 world records were set during these games. My favourite story is regarding the marathon. The heat was so intense that many marathon runners dropped out including Japanese runner Shizo Kanakuri who was treated to a refreshing drink in someone’s back yard before he went back home. The only problem was that he never officially dropped out so that is why he was invited back to Stockholm in 1967 to finish the race with a time of 54 years 6 days 8 hours 32 minutes and 20 second. In other words, he was 21 years old when he started and 75 when he finished!! A bit of a comedian on the side, his quote after finishing this ‘marathon’ marathon was:  "It was a long trip. Along the way I had time to get married, have six children and 10 grandchildren!!’  Beat that Sebastian Coe!!!

Back to the main event. The match programme was free on entry but a bottle of water cost me £3 ($5) A case of: ‘what they giveth with one hand they taketh with the other’!! The attendance was 9,043 so the ground didn’t feel crowded at any time.

We got talking to a young Swedish supporter who was intregued to learn why someone from England has travelled to Swdeen to watch Swedish football. I explained that her Majesty’s Government is impressed by the number of Scadinvaians who support the English Premier League and on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland we would like to repay the compliment!!!

The game ended in a 1-1 draw which seemed a fair result on the evening. An evening  that was still light at 23:25.  It had been a balmy 21°C all day and cloudless as we sat on some benches in Valhallavägen before heading back to the hotel for a well earned rest. It had been a long but very enjoyable day.

Tomorrows forecast is thundery showers
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