Designed by the German architect Günther Behnisch and the engineer Frei Otto, the lightweight tent construction of the Olympiastadion was considered revolutionary for its time. This included large sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilized by steelcables that were used for the first time on a large scale. The idea was to imitate the Alps and to set a counterpart to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, held during the Nazi regime. The sweeping and transparent canopy was to symbolize the new, democratic and optimistic Germany. This is reflected in the official motto: "The cheerful Games" ("Die Heiteren Spiele").
Since 2005, it is the host of the yearly air and style snowboard event.
On 31 December 2006, the stadium made history as being the first venue to host the Tour de Skicross-country skiing competition. The individual sprint events, held at 1100 m, were won by Norway's Marit Bjørgen (women) and Switzerland's Christoph Eigenmann (men). The snow was made in the stadium by combining the hot air with the cold refrigerated water that causes the snow to act like the icy type you would see in the Alps.
It went unused in the 2006 FIFA World Cup due to the Allianz Arena being the host stadium in Munich.
On 23 to 24 June 2007, the stadium played host to the Spar European Cup 2007, a yearly athletics event featuring the top 8 countries from around Europe.
The DTM touring car series held its first stadium event there in 2011: a Race of Champions-style event which took part over a two-day period, although it was not a championship scoring round.Edoardo Mortara won the first day, and Bruno Spengler the second. The event was repeated in 2012, but the stadium withdrew in 2013 because it proved impossible to turn it into a points-scoring event.
In addition to being a sports venue, the stadium has hosted many open-air concerts.
Michael Jackson performed at the stadium five times, all sold out with maximum capacity of the stadium for musical acts. The first concert was on 8 July 1988 during his Bad concerts, with more than 72,000 fans present. The second sell out concert, on 27 June 1992 kicked off his Dangerous World Tour, to another 72,000 fans. The next two were on 4 & 6 July 1997 during his HIStory World Tour for a total audience of 145,000 people. Those two concerts were filmed & mixed and have since been aired countless times on television all over the world. The fifth and last concert, on 27 June 1999 was for the second MJ & Friends concert, in which the star joined several other artists to raise funds to help needy and underprivileged children around the world.
Diana Ross sold out two nights in 1985 on her Swept Away Tour with more than 142,000 total audience attendees.
Bon Jovi performed at the stadium six times: the first one was on 30 June 2001, during the One Wild Night Tour. The second one was on 13 June 2003, during the Bounce Tour. The third one was on 28 May 2006 during the Have A Nice Day Tour, in front of a sold out crowd of 71,467 people. The fourth one was on 24 May 2008 during the Lost Highway Tour, in front of a sold out crowd of 70,473 people. The fifth was on 12 June 2011 during the Live 2011 in front of a sold out crowd of 68,025 people. The sixth one was on 18 May 2013 during their Because We Can, in front of a sold out crowd of 64,284 people.
U2 performed at the stadium three times: the first one was on 4 June 1993 during their Zoo TV Tour, in front of a crowd of 56,000 people. The second one was on 3 August 2005 during their Vertigo Tour, in front of a sold out crowd of 77,435 people. The third one was on 15 September 2010 during their U2 360° Tour, in front of a sold out crowd of 76,150 people.
Parts of the 1975 film Rollerball were shot on the (then) futuristic site surrounding the stadium.
American rock band Guns N' Roses filmed parts of their Estranged video there when they visited Munich in June 1993.
The Olympic Stadium also hosted Motorcycle speedway when it held the 1989 World Final on 2 September 1989. Denmark's Hans Nielsen won his second World Championship with a 15 point maximum from his five rides. The late Simon Wigg of England finished in second place after defeating countryman Jeremy Doncaster in a run-off to decide the final podium places after both had finished with 12 points from their five rides. Three time champion Erik Gundersen of Denmark finished in fourth place with 11 points. Gundersen, the defending World Champion, missed finishing outright second when his bike's engine expired while he was leading Heat 9 of the World Final.
In August 2014 the Olympic Stadium hosted the first ever geocaching "Giga" event, which was attended by over 9,000 enthusiasts from around the world.
^"Ein Geschenk der Deutschen an sich selbst". DER SPIEGEL 35/1972. August 21, 1972. … für die versprochene Heiterkeit der Spiele, die den Berliner Monumentalismus von 1936 vergessen machen und dem Image der Bundesrepublik in aller Welt aufhelfen sollen