Wembley has always been an iconic stadium in the world of football. The original stadium with it’s ‘twin towers’ was the home of England’s national team, and the setting for FA Cup Finals, European Club and International tournaments, and the World Cup in 1966. It’s demolition to make way for the new stadium caused a good deal of anguish amongst the millions who had witnessed football history being made on it’s ‘hallowed turf’. The demise of one icon, has undoubtedly seen the birth of another; the new stadium and its arch is a familiar landmark all across north west London.
There’s something mystical about any major sports venue, if you’re really in to sport, that is. The different seating areas, the field of play, and those hidden areas accessible only to players, officials and media, create a mystique that enables a stadium to generate additional revenues by running lucrative stadium tours. Some time last year I visited Wembley to undertake a Stadium Tour with my brother, visiting from Spain. What a cheesy affair it turned out to be, aimed at kids, big and small, but we did get to see one or two areas that would be out of bounds to spectators during events at the stadium.
But being assigned to Wembley for the Olympics opened up a totally unique opportunity to become part of the back-office operations and to basically have the run of the venue, subject to cetain restrictions. The Venue Technology (windowless) Office was located at floor level B1 (Basement 1), the same level as the pitch, in the northeast corner of the stadium. There were 8 levels in total, some serving as spectator concourses, others providing extensive hospitality services, mainly for those in the the middle tier seating. Other levels provided access to the media centre, media workrooms and press desks, broadcast tribunes, television studios, and to the offices of the Football Association that are located in the stadium.
Under the seating areas there is a road running all the way around the stadium which allows for deliveries of heavy duty equipment and general supplies, a location for outside broadcast trucks, access to and from a waste management area, a route for team coaches to reach the totally enclosed players’ entrance, a route for dignitaries to reach the ‘Royal’ entrance, and probably a few other things as well.
The options for moving between levels include stairs, escalators, passenger lifts and service lifts. Not all lifts go to all floors, and I can’t imagine how many lifts there are through out the stadium. A good deal of the staircases are used as spectator exits after a game – not much use for general access to different floor levels. Escalators are reversed after a game. During events at the stadium a security officer is assigned to each lift, and appropriate accreditation is needed to use the lifts. Basically, whenever I needed to go from A to B within the stadium, it required some deep thought to plan the route. Sadly, not every plan worked!
Like most of the ‘Olympics’ team working at Wembley, we were in awe of our surroundings, and snapping away with camera phones at every conceivable opportunity. There’s a few of mine below: