With their spectacular designs, the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) and Olympiahalle (Olympic Hall) are not just striking architectural centrepieces of Munich’s Olympiapark; they have also served regularly as the venues for major events since the park opened in 1972.
On 12 September 1972, with the Olympic Games barely over, the hallowed sporting halls were transformed into concert halls. The crème de la crème of pop have appeared under the tented roof, and from 1982 onwards open-air concerts were also held in the Olympiastadion. We look back on ten legendary performances together with Andreas Heinitz, who has been manager of the hall and stadium since 1997.
“Even if their music isn’t really your thing, their stage pyrotechnics were the most incredible by a long way,” recalls hall and stadium manager Andreas Heinitz. “We constructed a number of towers, and fireworks were shooting from the top of them in time with the music – you could even feel the heat. Loads of booming and smoke, and then there were the theatrical show effects!
I remember during the song ‘Puppe’ (doll), the lead singer Till Lindemann wheeled onstage a giant pram that went up in flames at the end of song. For ‘Mein Teil’ (my piece), keyboardist Christian ‘Flake’ Lorenz was stewed in a pot by a Lindemann who was dressed as a butcher and wielding a flamethrower. At the end of that slapstick number, Flake shoved his tormentor off the stage.”
There was a planned collapse of a stage bridge during his benefit concert in aid of UNESCO and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund on 27 June 1999 – but things went seriously wrong and the lift crashed down too quickly and too far.
Loads of booming and smoke, and then there were the theatrical show effects!
It was simply a technical fault,” Jackson’s world tour promoter Marcel Avram later concluded. Jackson fell some 14 metres, though he escaped any injury more serious than a few bruises and grazes, and even kept on singing! He closed the concert with “You Are Not Alone” before disappearing backstage. He was then taken straight to the Rechts der Isar hospital, where he stayed until the following morning.
“In 6 July 2003, 21 years after his first performance, he jumped onstage and shouted cheerfully into the microphone: ‘Good evening, my name is Robbie Williams. I am a rockstar!’” Heinitz recalls. ‘In 2006, Williams actually played three sold-out concerts in a row in the stadium – as far as I remember, that’s still a record to this day.”
Even outside, there were 20,000 fans gathered on the slopes of Olympiaberg (Olympic Mountain) to see the English entertainer. “Robbie Williams was the most popular entertainer who ever performed here, especially with the female public,” says Heinitz. “I always had to set up a fitness and weights area with weight benches for him and his guitarists in the dressing room. And before the concert I used to watch them all lift.”
“I was still working on the fabric stage cladding in the smaller Olympiahalle and I said to a colleague: ‘I’m all out of fabric!’ Then she screamed through the microphone from behind me, with those big blue eyes wide open in her familiar way: ‘Are you the house dealer here, and now I’m out of stuff?’”
“Those were two great events two days in a row,” recounts Andreas Heinitz. “I remember how she glided on taut ropes from one tower of the stadium to the other as she sang, swooping high above the throngs of revellers.” Musically, the mother of two oozed rock – even as she hung upside down above the stage. The performance was supported by an incredibly elaborate light show, and the stage design was different for every song. For “Just Like Fire”, Pink stood amid an sea of optical flames, while the next song found her standing alone in a dim, near-dark enchanted forest.
When it began to rain (for real) an hour later, she continued to perform undeterred – indeed, she actually seemed to enjoy the opportunity to cool off. “This rain is perfect!” she called to the crowds of revellers. Her fans put up their umbrellas and partied even harder. The showers also did not deter Pink from hurtling around the stadium on ropes, low enough to be quite close to her fans – sometimes the right way up and sometimes upside down. The verdict from Heinitz: “A crazy rain show!”
“We had to line all spaces such as dressing rooms with white cloth, and dress everything in snow-white, provide very special mineral water so that the artists would feel comfortable,” says Heinz. The star herself was actually not sure she would appear in Munich until the last moment, because of the terrible shooting incident that had happened at the Olympia shopping centre right next to the venue.
In the end the police banned larger bags and rucksacks which meant that during body searches of the 40,000+ fans attending the concert, there were many disputes about what constituted “too big”. Luggage judged as outsized was left in a tent erected specifically for the purpose.
Although Peter Maffay was there, he was somewhat out of place.
At around half past nine, half a dozen black limousines rolled into the arena and the star and her band got out in front of the stage. “Rihanna walked through the pit in front of the stage, passing very close by the fans,” recalls stadium manager Heinitz. “She wore a white hooded coat, a bit like the robes boxers wear on their way to the ring. Later everyone could see that the robe ended just above her bottom...”
Peter Maffay will never forget his first rock concert in Munich’s Olympiastadion. Although he was there, he was somewhat out of place. “We opened for the Rolling Stones,” he recalls in a later magazine interview. “Our playlist was soft – much too soft for a hot afternoon and the level of alcohol the audience had consumed. First they booed us, and then cans of cola, vegetables and eggs started flying through the air. We played on, dodging the missiles and ducking right and left like boxers.”
It was 10 June 1982 and the 78,000 rock fans showed no mercy to the Schlager pop singer. As he shared his memories on the occasion of the 80th birthday of legendary concert organiser Fritz Rau, Maffay spoke about how Rau saved his band at the time: “Suddenly a big man stormed onto the stage, stood in front of us, spread his arms out and roared at the crowd: ‘If you’re pelting them, you’ll have to pelt me, too!’ Fritz Rau against 78,000 spectators. Heroic!”
Of course Maffay has long made his peace with Munich’s rock audiences, and hundreds of thousands of fans have flocked here since 1982 to stand under the tented roof and specifically listen to Peter Maffay.
They were the first artists to perform in the Stadium after the Olympic Games. That was in 1973. Heinitz, who has only been working there since 1996, says: “I actually rarely got to know the stars because they were kept shielded by their bodyguards.
I looked into Keith Richard's haggard, furrowed face as into a friendly, smiling stone landscape, and for a moment I felt that he wouldn’t survive the show.
But sometimes I did! For example, when the boys huddle together, do some singing and get in the mood for the performance. One example of this is the time I met Keith Richards backstage in 1998: a security guy called and asked me to quickly come to the screened-off dressing room area to unlock a few doors so that the Stones could have another look at the dimensions of the rooms.
So I come round the corner and there’s Keith Richards in front of me! I looked into his haggard, furrowed face as into a friendly, smiling stone landscape, and for a moment I felt that he wouldn’t survive the show. I am telling you this because I have rarely been so close to an artist. And another thing I remember about the Stones is that they had by far the most trucks – around seventy.”
“That was one of the most legendary concerts in my entire time as manager of the stadium and the hall,” recounts Heinitz. “They had this astonishingly realistic steam engine on the stage. Although it was only half an engine shape made from polystyrene and light metal, it looked amazingly real because of the ingenious lighting – it was almost threatening.”
“The show on his 71st birthday, on 17 May 2017, is the one I remember best,” says Heinitz. “He himself, though, didn’t really seem bothered.
Again and again, groups in the stands of Olympiahalle started singing birthday songs for the self-proclaimed panic rocker, but he played it cool and ignored the singing to get on with the show. I also remember how he was hoisted onto the stage by a gripper arm with a glass of Weissbier in his hand, and he clicked the glass of beer onto his mic stand, where it remained until the end.”
More incredible stories are told by Herbi Hauke, former director of the Rock Museum, in our article: "Out and about with ...", it's amazing!