Bislett Staduim is one of the best running and jumping surfaces in the world, and supposedly the flagship track for the whole of Norwegian athletics. But now as a result of apathy, the track and grass playing surface has suffered very real and serious damage.
Bislett stadium has seen a lot more than its fair share of world records, why? Because it is flat, very flat. The ground is flat and the track surface is flat, resulting in only a few millimetre variation from one end to the other. On the 6th of June 2008 Bislett saw a fantastic Golden League meeting, a new women’s 5000m record was set, Blanka Vlašić nearly set a new women’s high jump record and the American Jeremy Wariner ran one of the fastest 400m in history – not bad for one afternoon. Anyone would have though this track to be deserving of respect. Alas it is probably only the extremely hard working and unpaid athletes that truly respect these facilities. In the face of profits offered by events companies the Bislett-Aliance and the Oslo Kommune have neglected their roles towards this place and the dreams of its users. Today, as it stands, the Bislett track would simply not pass the inspection needed to grant an IAAF international competition licence, required to host the Golden League event.
This is an article in ‘Aftenposten’, Norway’s equivalent to ‘The Times’, from 27th June 2008. The reporter, Berit Baumberger (firstname.lastname@example.org), was investigating damage to the grass playing area at the time I was coaching in the stadium.
Here is a brief description of the article in english.
‘Grass driven on by bikes, athletes suffering under these conditions. Motor bikes were used on the grass area for a motor-x show, last weekend, but the grass could not take it. This just 4 days before 20,000 fans arrive for a Leonard Cohen concert. The damage was so bad even the football team ‘Skeid’ could not play. Problems are, no one claims responsibility and there is no effective communication between the Oslo Kommune and the Bislett-Aliance. “We that use the track wish to run on the grass too, but we are strictly told that we can’t as damage will occur. I think it is crazy that others can use it in this way”, say’s Simon Hunt. The grass is greener in Sweden where they have better stadium routines, one day horse jumping followed by ice hocky the next, no problem. The event organisers need to take responsibility for the grass and track.’
Well the 20,000 fans did come for the Leonard Cohen concert, and once again the stadium was used irresponsibly by the event organisers. The track surface is fairly delicate compared to a road. Therefore it is important to keep the pressure of any vehicle down to a minimum by using small buggies with large, low pressure tyres in order to spread their weight, this avoids distortion and ripping of the track surface. These are the two main thing to be avoided if the track is to remain as flat as it is. But the concert saw 12,000 kg lorries with road going tyres parking and making tuns on the track surface, along with many cars. But some of the worst damage was done by heavy lifting trucks that carry loads of up to 60-100,000 kg. These vehicles completely destroyed two sections of the track, along the back straight and on the long jump run way. This shows that neither the event organisers, nor the Bislett-Alliance, truly understand the nature of the materials that make Bislett the ‘world record’ stadium.
How are events companies made responsible for protecting the sports facilities? Is the Bislett-Alliance interested in looking after their sports facilities, or is it more interested in making money regardless of sporting development?