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Workplace Olympiastadion Berlin: logistics for the soccer stars of Hertha BSC

Coaching bench and advertising banners: DB Schenker is responsible for setting up hundreds of moveable objects in the Olympiastadion prior to Hertha BSC’s home matches

Photos: Kristian Barthen

Things are looking good for Hertha BSC. Berlin’s top soccer club concluded the 2016/17 season in the top third of the Bundesliga table. This achievement has a lot to do with the team’s head coach, Pál Dárdai. And yet, the fact that the Hungarian-born ex-Hertha player can actually take his seat on the coaching bench in the Olympiastadion Berlin also has a lot to do with Axel Schiek. As an event specialist with DB Schenker, he and his team handle the logistics in and around the ground at home matches on behalf of Hertha. Part of their job is setting up the coaching benches.


Some weeks earlier, on a sunny Friday in spring, just after 9am, one of Axel Schiek’s men drives his forklift truck through the Marathon Arch and onto the blue tartan track. The forklift carries one of the six elements that his two colleagues will need to assemble the coaching benches for both the home and the away team. Tonight’s rivals are the players from TSG Hoffenheim, currently fourth in the table. Hertha BSC trails them in 5th place. Kickoff is at 8:30pm, but there is still plenty to do before the game can get underway.


“We are responsible for setting up and dismantling all of the moveable objects in the stadium bearing the logo of Hertha or one of its sponsors, with the exception of the LED display boards surrounding the pitch,” says Axel Schiek. He glances up at the upper tier, where two of his colleagues have begun attaching advertising banners to the right of the Marathon Arch. It will take them two hours to complete a full circuit of the stadium’s oval. Although it has a capacity of precisely 74,475, Berlin’s Olympiastadion is “merely” Germany’s third-largest stadium. It is, however, the only Bundesliga venue to feature an athletics track encircling the pitch, making its dimensions seem particularly vast.

Having a ball at the pitch: Thomas E. Herrich, Member of Hertha BSC’s Executive Board (l.) and Axel Schiek from DB Schenker. Photo: Kristian Barthen
Having a ball at the pitch: Thomas E. Herrich, Member of Hertha BSC’s Executive Board (l.) and Axel Schiek from DB Schenker. Photo: Kristian Barthen

Schiek and his team – which consists of up to twelve men on match days – have grown accustomed to these kinds of dimensions. “They use proven processes, and everyone knows exactly what to do at any given time,” says Thomas E. Herrich, Member of the Executive Board of Hertha BSC. He explains that several of the DB Schenker employees are also on hand during the games to reposition banners that might have slipped out of place.


“DB Schenker has been working on our behalf for ten years, and our collaboration with them is excellent,” says Herrich. The two parties regularly get together to assess where specifics can be improved or to discuss necessary changes. For example, when certain advertising spaces in the mighty oval, which are marketed by a specialist provider, need to be replaced.


In the run-up to today’s match, the DB Schenker specialists face a workload that will take them around six hours to complete. On days when there is an afternoon fixture and additional flags need to be hoisted above the stadium’s roof, the work takes longer. Disassembly is generally completed within five hours.


But why go to all this trouble, particularly when the whistle for kick-off puts the logistics experts under such time constraints? “The historic Olympiastadion, which underwent a complete renovation from 2000 to 2004, belongs to the state of Berlin,” says Axel Schiek. “And apart from soccer, the venue is used for countless other events. That’s why the material cannot remain in the stadium but has to be put into storage in between matches instead.”


Despite being a matter of routine, the devil is in the details, says Schiek. What that means becomes crystal clear when three of the DB Schenker team members haul the rolled-up 3D carpets into the stadium: meters and meters of needle felting, printed with sponsors’ logos and cut in such a way that they create the illusion of being three-dimensional to the pitchside spectators and the television viewers. Positioning these 3D carpets correctly behind the goalposts is a time-consuming task and involves a lot of fiddling and fine-tuning on the part of the workers.

Artificial Turf and Advertising catchphrases

“Extending” the grass field is a lot easier: artificial turf is transported into the stadium by forklift trucks and then rolled out behind the goals. “The pitch itself is strictly off limits to us,” says Axel Schiek. The greenkeepers, who rumble across the playing field on their ride-on mowers and leave an intense scent of freshly-cut grass, are employed by a different service provider.


Another one of the simpler tasks involves setting up the advertising billboards on the lower tier. Within just a few minutes, the entire far side is decorated with elements that look like oversized gym mats. The signs bear the new Hertha slogan: “Berlin start-up since 1892.” Another advertising catchphrase is printed on a mat that one of the employees unfurls and attaches in the space separating the two coaching benches. It reads: “We Try. We Fail. We Win.”


These slogans are part of an image campaign for the 2016/17 season devised by an advertising company – a kind of relaunch for the long-established club, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. Even when he finishes his work at the stadium, Axel Schiek, who was born in Berlin, still feels drawn to the club. “I’ve been a Hertha fan for as long as I can remember, and I go to a lot of home matches,” he says. When asked whether the Olympiastadion is still a special place for him, even after so many years of working there, he doesn’t hesitate for a second: “It still fascinates me every time,” says the 38-year old. “To me, it’s the most beautiful stadium in Germany.”

Teamplayers: DB Schenker is on site with up to twelve people prior to and after the Hertha BSC matches. The job requires both speed and diligence

Photos: Kristian Barthen

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