The former Tempelhof Airport
Tempelhof Airport is famous chiefly for its cameo role in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. Surprisingly enough however, before serving as a set piece for one of the greatest films of all time, the airport had other uses. Among them, keeping West Berlin fed, heated, and clothed in 1948 when the Cold War kicked off in earnest. It was at this airfield that U.S. and British airplanes delivered a daily total of 8000 tons of supplies, landing every 30 seconds 24/7, when the Russians shut off overland Non-Soviet Allied access to the city of two million. It thus occupies a special place in hearts of Germans of a certain generation and political attitude.
But for some time Berlin has had two other, much larger airports, Schönefeld and Tegel, which have been capably handling the bulk of Berlin’s air traffic for many years, prompting calls for the closure of Tempelhof. It seems that even in a country with arguably a sometimes almost unhealthy interest in symbolism, the continued use of the site as an airport could no longer be justifiably bankrolled by a city already 60 billion euros in the red (don’t ask). The mainstream political parties all campaigned for its closure.
At the end of October 2008, after years of public debate and ultimately a fairly unanimous public vote, Tempelhof airport closed its doors to air traffic forever, with no solid plans for its mid- to long-term future. Bad news for people who travel a lot by private jet, or have a job which necessitates getting to Brussels from Kreuzberg in under an hour three times a day. As for the rest of us, its closure presents the opportunity to utilize its copious system of access roadstoward the purpose of creating what could possibly be the most exciting racecourse ever seen at an international event. Steep climbs/descents, hairpin turns, TUNNELS, distance and more await those hungry for high speeds in an all-asphalt and concrete racing environment.
The building complex itself, measuring 1.3 km from end to end, is as huge as one might expect a former airport to be. Its halls and facades tend to be described as architecturally “imposing” and will be the source of much “Ooh-ing” and “Ahh-ing” from racers and spectators alike. The structures we’ll be riding through, under and around during the main race were completed in 1941 after five years work, and for a short time the building was the largest in the world. Facts to chew on and wonder at when an errant delivery requires you to lap the behemoth two or three times in the qualification rounds.
The bottom line is we will be throwing a once-off, staggering, spine-tingling, nerve-jangling, goose-pimpling ECMC slap bang in the middle of the German capital.
And you would be very unlucky to have missed it.