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Wankdorf stadium goes out with a bang

(Keystone)

One of Switzerland's most historic sporting sites, the Wankdorf stadium in Bern, was blown up in controlled explosions on Friday. One of the four floodlight pylons resisted for a short while, before it was finally pulled down mechanically.

The main stand and three floodlight pylons crashed to the ground in a cloud of dust seconds after experts set off 20 kilogrammes of explosives placed around the stadium.

Officials said they did not know why the fourth 50-metre high pylon did not crumble immediately.

About 4,000 onlookers, kept at a safe distance, watched the final moments of the 47-year-old stadium. The event lasted a mere 10 seconds, but left 500,000 cubic metres of rubble which has yet to be removed.

The stadium hosted its first major football match in 1954, the thrilling World Cup final between Germany and Hungary. In front of 60,000 spectators the Germans beat the Hungarians 3-2, after Hungary had taken a 2-0 lead.

The victory marked the re-emergence of Germany onto the international football stage, following the second world war.

The stadium has also hosted 76 Swiss cup finals and 100 international matches. But it is best known in Switzerland as the home of the Bern team, Young Boys. The side is using a nearby ground while the new stadium is constructed.

The former Young Boys footballer, Heinz Bigler, who played for Switzerland's national team during the 1954 football championship, watched the demolition take place and told swissinfo about his emotions.

"Of course I'm a bit saddened, because the Wankdorf stadium represents my whole history as a football player," Bigler said.

"It was a great time - we made history. While it hurts to see the stadium disappear for ever, we need a new stadium and things have to move on," he added.

A few items from the stadium, including one of the benches from the changing rooms, as well as a storage cupboard, were rescued prior to the demolition and will shortly go on display at the Historical Museum in Bern.

The German manufacturer, Adidas, has also bought a number of objects connected with the stadium for display in its own museum.

Plans for the new stadium have been finalised and construction will start early next year.

The stadium, which will have 31,000 seats, shops and restaurants, is scheduled to open in 2004 and is being financed by Swiss retail giant, Coop, and two Swiss insurance companies, Suva and Winterthur.

swissinfo with agencies


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