Set towards Istanbul’s main airport, by the main TEM highway towards Edirne and the Greek border, the crescent-shaped Atatürk Olympic Stadium was built at a cost of $140 million between 1999 and 2002. It is most known as the venue where Liverpool made a remarkable comeback to win the Champions League in 2005.
Holding 79,000 people and a long, long ride from town, in distant Ikitelli in the north-west fringes of Istanbul, this key to the city’s failed bid to host the 2008 Olympics, is currently used by Besiktas. What will happen once Istanbul’s de facto third club move into their new Vodafone Arena in 2016 is not clear – even the Turkish national side play at Fenerbahce or Galatasaray these days.
As for former tenants Istanbul BB, the renamed Istanbul Basaksehir now play at their new stadium, in the nearby district of the same name.
It was always a strange arrangement, anyway, four-figure crowds dotting the empty terraces for home matches. The Istanbul BB faithful, the Boz Baykuslar, a sympathetic and humorous crew, fed up with the violence that has pervaded the Turkish game, had to be bussed in from town. They occupied an area of the West Stand, Bati Tribün, which along with the East (Dogu Tribün) creates the stadium’s signature crescent look. They are bookended by the North (Kuzey Tribün) and South (Güney Tribün) Stands.
For major European nights, away fans are allocated seats in the South Stand (Güney Tribün), through Gate R. It’s an uncovered end – and, yes, it does rain in Istanbul.
The stadium now has its own station on a spur of the M3 metro line, Olimpiyat, two stops from Ikitelli Sanayi on the main M3 line that starts at transfer hub Kirazli. Also at the end of the extended M1B line from Aksaray, Kirazli is a good 30min from town. For the whole journey, allow the best part of an hour.
As the metro station is an obvious pre-match gathering point, for big European matches the local authorities advise against visiting fans using it.
On match days, special buses are laid on from town. For European games, they generally leave from Sultanahmet Meydani (or Square), the former hippodrome, four hours before kick-off. The price is set at a €10 return.
A taxi would be around TL60-70 or €21-25. Again, allow an hour, depending on traffic.
For all games in Turkey, you need a Passolig card before you can be admitted. Here’s an English-language guide on how to do this. Once you’ve done this, you can buy a ticket for specific matches on a week by week basis online through Passo.
The days of turning up before kick-off and hoping to get in are sadly no longer with us.
There are no bars, cafes or restaurants anywhere near the stadium that fans can go to before or after the match unless they are ready to travel another few miles further out of Ikitelli. On match days tea, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages, and small snacks, are sold around the stadium.