Local residents in Ochota have expressed their opposition at plans to renovate and restore the Skra sports complex that sits south-west of the city centre.
Among other concerns, protestors have railed against the number of trees that will be ripped up as well as the lack of parking places that have been planned – with just 50 parking spaces sketched in, the surrounding streets stand to be deluged with cars looking for street parking, they say.
Costing PLN 100 million, others have voiced displeasure at the heavy price to be borne by City Hall.
Initially, touted plans had provided for the construction of a large lake now, however, city representatives have ceded that this will not go ahead. “Instead of adapting to climate change,” says protestors, “we will have more instances of concrete disease. Such a project by City Hall only distances the city’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Yet more have claimed that the decisions made by Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski will serve only to degrade the lives of local residents, and a growing number of voices have criticised the incumbent Mayor for lack of transparency.
Even so, this dissent seems unlikely to impact the much-needed redevelopment of one of the capital’s most legendary sports venues.
Skra had first been earmarked to become a sports complex by the city’s visionary pre-war mayor, Stefan Starzyński. The outbreak of WWII saw those plans shelved, and for the duration of the occupation the grounds served as the home of a Nazi anti-aircraft battery.
Despite sustaining heavy damage towards the end of the war, peacetime saw the plot swiftly repurposed as a speedway track. But whilst speedway was to take off in many parts of Poland, the Warsaw public never truly warmed to the sport; aware of this flagging interest, city authorities recruited Jerzy Wasilewski and Mikołaj Kokozow to design an athletics stadium.
Holding 35,000 spectators, this horseshoe-shaped arena was officially inaugurated in 1953 and was hailed as the most modern sports facility in the nation. Over the following decades it became central to Polish Olympic hopes, with a fleet of sporting legends all training here – among them, Władysław Kozakiewicz, a pole vaulter that hit international headlines during the 1982 Olympics when he made an ‘up yours’ gesture to a hostile Moscow crowd.
Left to largely rot in recent times, its condition left the sporting media outraged when they learned that “the greatest hammer thrower of all time”, Anita Włodarczyk, was training in such dismal surrounds.