On the northern shores of Lake Geneva in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Olympic capital Lausanne has connections with football dating back longer than almost anywhere else in mainland Europe.
Long before flagship club Lausanne Sport were formed as Montriond in 1896, well-to-do British families of the mid-Victorian era had been sending their sons to further their education at private schools here.
In either 1860 or 1880, English students created the Lausanne-Football and Cricket Club, restricting membership to expats. LFCC were one of ten clubs to convene at Olten in April 1895 to form the Swiss Football Association. Another was Villa d’Ouchy, a private school based in Lausanne. Some documents indicate 11 founding members, but Villa Longchamp, another private school from Lausanne, did not attend that afternoon.
In any case, all three took part in the inaugural Swiss championship of 1897-98. Of the five cities involved, Lausanne provided the most teams, but details, other than the scorelines, are scant. The tournament was organised by region, on a knock-out basis, Villa Longchamp winning through to the final and a two-leg defeat by Grasshoppers Zürich.
The following year, Lausanne-Football and Cricket Club made the final but refused to play Old Boys Basel as the game was scheduled for a Sunday. LFCC then blipped out of existence.
Montriond assumed the mantle of main football club in the city. Playing the first Derby Lémanique against Servette at the Parc de Milan in Lausanne in 1900, Montriond made their debut in the Swiss Serie A in 1902-03.
In 1904, the club moved to La Pontaise in the far north of town. Montriond’s sixth ground in eight years, La Pontaise would serve them for well over a century until the present day. This modest terrain became a proper ground in 1926, by which time Montriond had become Lausanne Sports, LS to all.
In 1935 it witnessed Lausanne’s extraordinary demolition of Nordstern Basel in the Swiss Cup Final, 10-0, crowning the club’s first double. Two years later, perhaps even more extraordinarily, Lausanne then lost 10-0 to Grasshoppers in the same showcase fixture.
La Pontaise was completely rebuilt for the 1954 World Cup. Featuring five-ringed iconography around the main entrance, the stadium became the Stade Olympique, only to lose out to Rome for the right to host the 1960 Games. Also containing a running track for the LS athletics club, the stadium was fashioned in an aesthetically pleasing oval shape. Architect Charles-François Thévenaz, still in his early 30s, was bold enough to factor the Alps into the backdrop for the low-swooping Bloc Est behind the east goal.
In what would be the highest scoring tournament in World Cup history, Thévenaz’s Stade Olympique staged football of the highest quality, from Switzerland’s shock 2-1 win over Italy to Austria’s 7-5 humbling of the hosts in the quarter-finals. Hungary’s 4-2 victory over Uruguay, undefeated in the World Cup since 1930, is deferentially considered the greatest match in the history of the game. The 45,000 squeezed into the stadium for this epic semi-final witnessed a last-gasp equaliser by the holders before an extra-time brace by Sándor Kocsis steered the Magyars towards their fateful final.
It was also a memorable era for Lausanne Sports, winning silverware a-plenty and reaching the semi-finals of the inaugural Fairs’ Cup in 1958.
In 2002, LS were relegated for the first time in 70 years. There then followed bankruptcy, the dissolution of Lausanne Sports and the creation of Lausanne Sport, who would scale their way back up the Swiss League to gain long-sought promotion to the top flight in 2011.
While the club has been reborn, the days of the Stade Olympique are numbered. In 2009, Lausanne citizens voted against a proposal to adapt it for modern-day use. Instead, two stadiums will do the job of one, Lausanne’s athletes to use a renovated Stade Pierre de Coubertin at lakeside Vidy, and the football club to move into the 12,000-capacity Stade de la Tuilière by 2019.
Even further north than La Pontaise, near Lausanne Airport, La Tuilière saw construction begin in June 2017.
In August 2017, a requiem mass was held at Lausanne’s Sacré-Coeur Church for Stade Olympique architect Thévenaz, laid to rest at the grand old age of 97. Soon to be transformed into an eco quarter named Métamorphose, his arena will live long in football history, the Olympic Stadium that never hosted an Olympics.
Lausanne has its own airport, about 1km north of the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, but it’s currently not used for commercial flights.
The nearest international airport is Geneva 69km (43 miles) south-west of Lausanne, 4km (2.5miles) north-west of Geneva city centre. The airport has its own rail terminus, with a regular direct train to Lausanne (50min journey time, single ticket SF14).
Lausanne station is south of the city centre, connected as Lausanne-Gare to the tl public transport network by bus and métro. One stop away on métro M2 is central Lausanne-Flon, where the two lines cross. A proposed third métro line will run to the new stadium at La Tuilière. The train station is linked by bus to Stade Olympique de la Pontaise – it’s way too far to walk. A single ticket (GL) for the bus and métro, distributed from machines at the station and all stops, is SF3.70, valid for 1hr. A day pass (JGL) is SF9.30. A journey of up to three stops is SF2.30, ideal for the hop between the station and Flon, but not for the stadium.
Many local hotels offer a free transport pass for the length of your stay.
Based halfway between the station and the stadium, Pronto Taxi Lausanne (+41 79 297 21 06) offers airport transfers to Geneva for SF180, currently reduced to SF130 if booked 24hrs in advance.
Lausanne Tourisme has an online hotel-reservation service through booking.com.
There are no hotels close to the stadium – in any case, you’d be miles out of town.
Conveniently opposite the station, the 116-room Continental is a business-friendly four-star with a branch of popular Belgian bakery/café chain Le Pain Quotidien on the ground floor. The nearby Victoria offers a gym, a pay-for sauna and bar.
Towards town, the Alpha Palmiers features a quality Thai restaurant, gym, sauna and hammam. Under the same umbrella, behind the station, chic Agora Swiss Night is Swiss-themed down to its cow-print armchairs and Swiss Army blankets while stablemate Swiss Wine opened in 2016 with its own wine bar in the foyer. Lively pubs surround this city-centre property.
Classic Hôtel de la Paix was unveiled shortly before the Swiss league title first came to Lausanne in 1913. As well as grand comfort, it offers superb views over Lake Geneva.
Handily located by Flon station, LHOTEL provides a more urban experience, 26 rooms tucked into a tall townhouse, with panoramic views from the rooftop bar.
Cosmopolitan Lausanne is not short of pubs, particularly in the commercial quarter downtown, around rues Saint-Pierre, Enning and Caroline. There you’ll find the Captain Cook, with its match screenings and table football.
By Riponne/M.Béjart on the M2 line, The Great Escape, affectionately known as ‘The Great’, wins most votes as best bar in town, a freehouse with plenty of choice on tap, action from the English Premier and major European leagues on TV, top-notch burgers and giant screens on the large terrace when major summer tournaments come around.
Near Flon at place Pépinet, McCarthy’s Irish Pub shows different games on several plasma screens plus one giant one, and offers quality burgers and pub grub. Opening hours stretch to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. On the ground floor of the Pathé Flon cinema, the King Size Pub is a vast post-work hangout, with huge screens for sport. If you weren’t in Lausanne, you’d swear you were in an airport Wetherspoons.
Near the station, Les Gosses du Québec (avenue de la Gare 22) leans more towards ice hockey than soccer but it’s a classic sports bar nonetheless, lined with pool tables and decorated with framed shirts. Beer can be ordered by the pitcher. Nearby, at avenue d’Ouchy 7 off avenue de la Gare, one of Europe’s finest football bars closed in February 2017. Memorabilia-filled Bar de Rosemont once run by ‘King’ Richard Dürr has given way to a faceless outlet for specialist whiskies. A photo of the 1960s’ legend is all that remains from 50 years of football gatherings.