Often by chance we pass by seemingly inconspicuous structures not giving them a second look. But these structures don’t just appear out of thin air and more often than not – especially when travelling through Wünsdorf Zossen – they have an interesting history behind them. What looked like a poorly maintained training pitch in Wünsdorf, and locally called “Alter Sportplatz” (Old Sportsground) actually used to be part of the Heeressportschule Wünsdorf dating back to 1916. And if it even has an Olympic connection.
The Heeressportschule in Wünsdorf traces its origins back to the years 1914 -1916, when the german military established decided to establish the headquarters of the Reichsheer in Wünsdorf. It was in the early years of the first world war that the military built the “Militärturnanstalt” (literally Military Gymnastics School). While a military gymnastics school might sound odd – its origins date back to 1842 when the Prussian Monarchy issued a decree in which gymnastics was recognized as an indispensable part of the entire civil and military education system. By 1847, the first military gymnastics institute began training officers.
Despite the dismantling of some military installations in and around Zossen, a large portion of the Military Buildings in Wünsodrf continued to be used by the Reichswehr. The Militärturnanstalt was turned into a Heeressportschule (Army Sport School) – essentially a modern army sports academy in 1924. While we do not have definitive dates – we know for sure that a parade ground existed before 1920 where the “Alter Sportplatz” / Olympiastadion Wünsdorf now stands as photos from the German Federal Archive document a parade being held by the Freikorps “Lützow” – one of the many proto-fascist Paramilitary organisations that sprung up after WWI – on the 8th of March 1920.
The pradeground in Wünsdorf was most likely turned into a training ground after 1924 with the transition into a Heeressportschule. The Heeressportschule in Wünsdorf gained prominence during these years, especially as the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam were just around the corner and the German Reich would participate in its first games since the outbreak of the first world war.
Berlin was picked as the 1936 host city for the 11th olympics in 1931, the Heeressportschule in Wünsdorf rose to prominence again becoming an official training ground for the german olympic team – though its worth mentioning that the German Reich had multiple official locations to train its athletes around Berlin and Brandenburg such as Kaserne Krampnitz and the Freibad Lichtenberg.
So where does the name “Olympiastadion” come from? Well, sources and information are relatively thin – but due to the Olympic National Team having used this “stadium” to train, its been dubbed Olympiastadion by the city of Zossen. While I have not found any specific mention of the name in any historic documents, the city is officially using the term in its more recent documents (more on that below).
GSOFG Sports Ground | GSSD Sportplatz
After the second world war, the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (later known as the Western Group of Forces) picked Wünsdorf as its headquarters – turning it into the largest soviet garrison outside of the Soviet Union. The former Heeresportschule and its facilities were extensively used by the Soviet Troops, including the “alter sportplatz” as its known today. Some modifications were undertaken over the years, a new set of stands was built with a raised platform for “VIPs”, a scoreboard, and a symbolic entrance arch.
According to some former “inhabitants” – the wooden gazebo – either the original thats visible in one of the photos from 1920, or a modification of it stood atop the stone foundation at the far end of the field.
The sports ground was also used by the Soviet School № 1 as an exercise ground, and the military used it for both training exercises as well as parades. Some photos of the parades can be found here, here, and here.
Alter Sportplatz Wünsdorf today (2022)
After the last soviet military train left Wünsdorf on the 8th of September 1994 (and leaving behind some equipment), all former military buildings were handed over to the German State and the State of Brandenburg. While the majority of the buildings have been left abandoned (some have been refurbished over the years into apartments and a refugee center) – the alter sportplatz has seemingly seen some use over the past few years. The gazebo on the towerlike stone foundation have been torn down at some point and the stands including the scoreboard have been largely reduced to their concrete foundation – the pitch and track itself have more or less been maintained though.
The entrance arch still stand as well, but whatever once hung from it has long since vanished. If one ventures up the small hill one can find semi covered concrete benches which probably once gave a great view over the field. These days the alter sportplatz in Wünsdorf is used by the occasional jogger or dog walker, but thats about all the sports activity its seeing.
The city of Zossen has been working on developing segments of the former military installation, including the area around the GSSD Sportplatz in Wünsdorf. A 2019 proposal titled “Living by the Olympic Stadium” is looking at building new houses around the “stadium” and forested area as well as reconstructing the stands as well as constructing a “sanitary facility”. The city of Zossen actively uses the title “Olympic Stadium” for the old training ground, though its difficult to decipher if this is just a smooth marketing tactic or if this was historic name that had actually been used. Either way, it has been officially established that the german olympic team used the “stadium” for training purposes.
The plan specifically mentions that there is no intention of building any houses on the grounds of the stadium. The construction proposal is apparently still active, as newer records still show mentions of the “Living by the Olympic Stadium” proposal and some of the barracks have been undergoing construction for the past 2 years (with very little progress being made it seems). The stadium remains untouched as of March 2022.
GSSD Sportplatz | Alter Sportplatz Wünsdorf Address
15806, Wünsdorf Zossen