Ziya Gökalp, 34490 Başakşehir/İstanbul
Red and Black
When you remember the reason behind the Ataturk Olympic Stadium development – being for the 2008 Olympic Games, which Turkey never hosted – it is perhaps of little surprise that it cuts such a striking figure. From above the bowl shaped stadium, circular parking and pedestrian area and practice arena cut an imposing figure and it’s much the same when you get down to ground level but without the same ‘wow factor’. The concrete design is colossal and imposing but doesn’t serve up the same sparkle as a lot of modern stadia; that said, the LEDs that light up the underside at night do deliver a certain ‘pop’.
Okay, the description we’ve just given of the outside of the Turkey national team ground probably doesn’t get your juices flowing; we know that. The inside of the ground, however, is damn impressive. There is a slowly inclined seating area that sweeps around the entire pitch in a shallow bowl style but that is just the first tier. The north and south stands of the ground have just the aforementioned open air, single tier but that’s not the case for the east and west stands.
Those stands run alongside the touchlines and boast a roof that makes for a striking view from all sides of the ground such is the design and shaping. In the east, there are two tiers of seating whilst the west offers three. The second and third tiers of seating are positioned at a much greater gradient to ensure the visibility of the pitch is not compromised; after all, when they house the VIP and executive boxes you can’t afford to compromise on anything!
When you consider what a stereotypical visit to a football match entails the pre-match grub and drink ranks pretty high up the list for most people. Well, when you come to the Ataturk Olympic Stadium on a typical match day you need to prepare yourself for a slight change of experience. The city of Istanbul is obviously heaving with restaurants and bars but, as for the stadium itself, you’re extremely limited.
This is different, however, if you are attending a showpiece event at the stadium, such as the Champions League final. The stadium was host for the 2005 final and is host again for the 2023 final and organiser have fan zones planned around the stadium for supporters attending the match. Within these fan zones, which are a five minute walk from both ends of the ground, fans will be able to grab a bite to eat and a drink before the match. Additionally, there will be pre-match entertainment on the stages situated in both zones.
These fan zones will open at 2pm on the day of the final and they will close at 8pm. They will then re-open again after the final whistle so that fans can get some food after all the action on the pitch has concluded. At this time, only soft drinks will be able for purchase.
If you want to enjoy some bars and restaurants further afield, then the centre of Istanbul is buzzing with countless options. You can also try some places on the metro line to the stadium with the Köfteci Yusuf restaurant at the Istoc metro station a popular choice. From here, the stadium is a mere 15-minute ride away.
The Ataturk Olympic Stadium is sandwiched between that main centre of Istanbul and the airport that serves the city; in driving terms that’s circa 20 miles from the airport, which is an important note for plenty of fans jetting in for the game, and 15 miles from the main city hub. Regardless of what direction you’re approaching the stadium though, you’re well covered for travel.
If you’re opting for public transport then your best bet is unquestionably the train. The underground M9 line drops you at Olimpiyat station, which is purpose built to serve the Turkish national team ground. You’ve got the ability to drive to the stadium in your private vehicle as well though with plenty of parking options surrounding the stadium. In terms of how you go about getting there it really depends where you’re starting from. If you’re heading down from the airport then you’re looking to follow the O-7 and then branching off at Olimpiyat Stadı Yolu. If you’re coming from Istanbul centre itself then it’s the O-3, E80 and then, from the other direction, Olimpiyat Stadı Yolu once again.
When you consider the stadium itself, it is hard to believe what you’re about to hear but there is pretty much zero hotel offering in the immediate vicinity of the Turkey national team ground! There is, however, a vast choice within a 10-15 minute drive time radius with hotels covering pretty much every budget. If you’re doing the match – or tour – on a budget then the Ramada Encore by Wyndham Istanbul Basin Express, which is a 3-star hotel, can be snapped up for under £40 per night and it’s just 10 minutes by car. That’s located on the E80 south of the stadium and is a 10 minute walk from a metro stop. You have a similar option towards the airport – again a 10 minute drive from the stadium – by Hilton but the downside is that you lose that train link.
If you’re after more glitz then a more upmarket choice is the 5-star Centro West Side; it’s just five minutes further from the arena than the aforementioned Ramada and, depending on how far in advance you’re booking, you can snap up a room for around the £50-60 mark. Alternatively, you can pinch pennies and rest your head at dem Istanbul hotel. It’s a 15 minute drive with no real link to public transport but with rooms available from under £20 you can’t grumble too much.
The Ataturk Olympic Stadium is obviously best known as the Turkey national team stadium but there have been a fair few sides call it home since it’s build back in the late nineties and early 2000’s. Galatasaray occupied it for a couple of years early on before İstanbul Basaksehir took residence for seven seasons – sharing a 12 month period with Kasimpasa.
Since 2020, Fatih Karagümrük S.K. have called the stadium their home. Although they aren’t one of the powerhouses of Turkish football, Fatih Karagümrük S.K have fared well since being promoted to the top league in the country in 2020 and have enjoyed three successive top half finishes.