Strahov Stadium: from Communist Glory to Rundown Practice Field.

After I had arrived and experienced living in Prague for a few weeks, I was struck by an absence of any recent history expressed in the buildings or sites of the city.
Of course the overall sense of history in Prague is great, with the wide array of historical monuments in styles ranging from Romanesque, to Gothic, to Art Nuevo. But I could not help feeling that the city seemed to gloss over some of the “not-so-nice” aspects of their pasts, with a lack of historical sites concerning the two totalitarian regimes that had existed there (unless you specifically went out of your way to find them). I guess this lacking feeling was to be expected considering the only other European city I had been to prior to my arrival was Berlin, a city that plays up sites of recent history because part of their tourist pull comes from their conflicted pasts within the Nazi and Communist regimes. Now that I have been in Prague for a while, I have noticed that the Czech republic’s communist past has in some small way left its mark still remaining in Prague. The most common examples are subtle, the occasional pre-fab apartment complex or communist era office building. There are few sites that are maintained, such as the former Moscow now Andel metro stop, the television tower, and the John Lennon Wall a site of student protest, but what intrigues me the most are the few sites that are still remaining, without any maintenance, abandoned and forgotten by the inhabitance of Prague.

One such building is Strahov Stadium on top of a hill overlooking Prague. It is hard to imagine that this gigantic stadium could fall into reletive obscurity, especially considering that it is the world’s largest stadium with room for over 8 soccer fields inside. As my proffessor led us past the practice fields, past the barriers keeping the public off the structure, and up the broken stairs of the stadium overgrown with weeds, he explained the former glory of the stadium as a venue for mass gymnastics. Mass gymnastics in Strahov Stadium were performances of synchronized mass movements, organized and performed by the Czechoslovak Spartakaids every five years in celebration of the country’s liberation by the Red Army. Mass gymnastics performances were used under communism for “the display of strong, young, beautiful and disciplined bodies [that offered] an attractive reading of society as a whole and consequently legitimizes the leadership as a promoter or creator of such a society” (Roubal, Politics of Gymnastics).  For more information on mass gymnastics read my professor Petr Roubal’s article “Politics of Gymnastics: Mass Gymnastic Displays under Communism in Central and Eastern Europe” or http://www.osa.ceu.hu/galeria/spartakiad/online/index2.html

When a student asked my proffessor about the eventual fate of the stadium and if there are any plans for rennovation, his answer was that the city will most likely wait till the stadium is so rundown it can not be used as a practice soccer fields and becomes a safety hazard. Then the city will use that as an excuse to demolish it, but that answer could have been easily guessed from viewing the stadiums current condition. Although I felt no attachment to the stadium and did not feel the sense of nostalgia for the feelings of power, beauty, and community that came with the mass gymnastics displays that my proffesor admitted to feeling when he was up in the stands, I could not help but feel a sense of loss when I realized that without the fieldtrip I would have been living in Prague without ever knowing of it’s existance and that it most likely would not be there if I am ever to return. That is why I felt it fitting to write a blog post about it here, so that in some small way it can be remembered. I find it especially fitting to write about the Strahov Stadium on the intern blog for the Wende Museum, considering the Museum’s mission towards perserving and sharing Cold War history.

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One Response to Strahov Stadium: from Communist Glory to Rundown Practice Field.

  1. YK says:

    True and poignant. Looks like you are having an excellent experience in Prague! Hope all is well and you are fantastic for continuing to post!

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