How Amsterdam 1928 changed the face of car parking forever
The Olympic Games Amsterdam 1928 saw a number of important milestones. Women competed in the athletics and gymnastics competitions for the first time; and there was a first appearance in the modern era for the Olympic flame, which burned for a fortnight in the newly built Olympic Stadium.
This magnificent structure provided the organisers with a few problems, not least how to deal with the increased traffic around the venue. Like other cities around Europe in the late 1920s, the streets of Amsterdam were filling up fast with cars, and during the Games this issue was more pressing than ever, so the organisers were forced to rack their brains in search of a solution.
The allotted parking area next to the stadium had room for a maximum of 2,000 vehicles, which was nowhere near enough to meet the demand during Games time. In response, Amsterdam City Council provided a number of other sites that took parking capacity up to 3,500 motor vehicles and 2,000 bicycles.
However, no sooner had one problem been solved than another was created: how were drivers and cyclists supposed to find their way to the new car parks?
A solution was found in the shape of small blue panels with a white capital “P” in the middle. So it was that the international traffic sign for parking was born.
Officials and delegation members were issued with special parking permits. Valid for three or four days at a time to prevent them being sold on illegally, they also featured a “P” inside a circle.
“During the 37 days occupied for the Games a total of 26,028 cars were parked, representing an average of about 700 a day,” stated the Amsterdam 1928 Official Report. “The largest number was parked on the last day of the Games, when the total reached 2,200. On that day some 4,400 motor-cars drove up to the Stadium gates.”
“One department of the Municipality with which much conferring was necessary was the Police, both with a view to rendering assistance and regulating the traffic. In this connection it must be said that invaluable assistance was rendered by the Commissioner, the Superintendent of the division in which the Stadium was located, and the Chief Inspector of the Traffic Police.
“If these authorities had not cooperated so well, neither the order in the Stadium nor the regulating of the traffic and the parking arrangements would have roused the admiration of the foreigners as was the case.”
The brand new “P” sign was a key part of these arrangements, and proved so useful that it has remained in use ever since, helping drivers all over the world find a place to park their vehicles.