The Olympics are a global event that can provide great economic opportunity for the host city. During the games, this international competition of the most elite athletes is the main headline, but after the 16 days of Olympic madness, what happens to the infamous cities that hosted the games? Some cities thrive, while others, the “white elephants”, have had a rough time deciding if their investments were worth while.
Cities like Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics back in ’84 and the once bustling arena, is now overridden with weeds and graffitied ski jumps and bobsled tracks. Some cities are faced with more grueling dilemmas post-Olympics so the focus is elsewhere. Sarajevo underwent a Civil War. Cities like Greece were faced with a 7-year recession shortly after the games ended and Sochi, Russia spent a fortune on the infrastructure and couldn’t possibly imagine pouring more money into the multi-billion dollar investment.
With the Rio Olympics recently ending, the question of what will happen to the host city and infrastructures is still up in the air. Many Olympic host sites have extensive planning committees that decide the details of constructing the mega arena as well as the plans post-games. Unfortunately, many cities find themselves twiddling their thumbs when the torch goes out and these grandiose plans for the years following the games, end up staying just that, plans. After all is said and done, the question of whether or not investing more into the already expensive game location is really worth the trouble.
15. Beijing, China (2008 Olympics)
Beijing invested billions to fund the Olympics in 2008- $40 billion to be exact. Unfortunately, the extravagant infrastructures that once housed the most impressive athletes’ medal winning endeavors, are now eerily abandoned. Those who visited the abandoned site found stray dogs roaming the grounds and forgotten sleeping bags from those who utilized the space for shelter when they were down on their luck. One mistake the host city made was building park features that required costly maintenance. For instance, the “Bird’s Nest” that held the opening and closing Olympic Ceremony, would have costed China an additional $11 million to maintain it from 2008 to present. Beijing has quite a large quantity of abandoned buildings, so this is nothing new for China in general. Many large mall complexes, manufacturing companies and skyscrapers are left abandoned when they no longer prove a purpose; so the addition of abandoned Olympic sports arenas is nothing new to this populous country.
14. Athens, Greece (2004 Summer Olympics)
The Athens arena was revamped from its original form (circa 4th Century B.C.) for the 2004 Olympics. The amazingly historic monument is now rundown and overcrowded with nature. Unfortunately, the investment into the games, was not as economically promising for Greece as hoped for. The country suffered a depression shortly after the games ended and the question is up for debate whether or not the games proved to provide economic benefits for the country. If you happen to visit the grounds of the ’04 Olympics, the stadium shares resemblance to the Coliseum, but with less upkeep. Athens wanted to maintain the B.C. era infrastructure by using stone and brick for most of the competition rings. Unfortunately, this type of building can lead to century long preservation and any prospective changes to the infrastructure is costly and time consuming. There have been talks that Athens would be a future host city, once again. If so, hopefully third time’s a charm for Athens.
13. Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (Present Day Bosnia, 1984 Winter Olympics)
The Winter Olympics in Sarajevo proved a costly investment for this host country. Not one of the infrastructures have had profitable use post-Olympics. In Bosnia (then Yugoslavia), the ski jumps, bobsled tracks and podiums have long been abandoned and destroyed through years of decay and wartime. Sarajevo is the poster child for the “white elephant” (which many are calling abandoned Olympic sites). The site is an eerie reminder of the negative impact hosting the games can have. Sarajevo was the not-so-lucky city chosen to host the games because planning committees thought it was the least likely location that would be impacted by the Cold War. Eight years after the games, a 4 year war took place and the grounds were no longer seen as a symbol of athleticism, but as bunkers and graveyards for the half a decade long civil war. Today, it is still left to rot and decay, with no plans of being rebuilt or torn down.
12. Sydney, South Wales, Australia (2000 Olympic Games)
The games at Sydney Olympic Park were monumentally declared “Games of the New Millennium” and perhaps that encouraged the country to make good use of the Olympic grounds. Sydney Olympic Park is a post-Olympic “Cinderella Story”. The stadiums, arenas and Olympic Village, have all been recycled for everyday uses. The arenas have been transformed into office spaces and the village that housed Olympic athletes, were remodeled into luxury apartments. The stadium where the 2000 Olympic torch was lit to signify the games had begun, is now used for a number of different community-wide events, sporting events and much more. If you visit the Sydney Olympic Park webpage, there is a plethora of activities coming up that are to be housed at the infamous park. Sydney quickly revamped the park arenas after the games in high hopes of a profitable post-Games outcome. Perhaps Rio should consult with the Sydney Games planning committee and inquire about how they managed to become so successful after the closing ceremony.
11. Salt Lake City, Utah (2004 Winter Olympics)
Salt Lake City is another Olympic site that successfully utilizes their post-Olympic venues. Like Sydney, the arena hosts a variety of events, concerts, expos and youth based activities; even Olympians return to this site to train throughout the year. Salt Lake City has found a way to continue optimizing maximum profit from being a host city, post-Olympics. The winter Olympic courses are now utilized as a tourist attraction and a fun getaway for families, while the Olympic Village is being used as student housing for the University of Utah. Although the games were Winter Olympics, the slopes are still used year round and many athletes call the park their home for training for other sporting events, alongside the Olympics. This is one of the most innovative uses for post-Winter Olympic infrastructure. Besides all star athletes frequenting the area, families can take in the scenery from up-above by zip lining down the ski hills. They also have the bobsleigh course open to all for go-kart racing.
10. London, Great Britain (2012 Summer Olympics)
London has also had a promising outcome of their Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Although, the first year following the 2012 Olympics, the park was barren and didn’t show much promise for future utility. Today, the park is thriving and is being used to its full potential. The velodrome is now used by cyclists of all strengths and abilities, the aquatics center is open to the community for a small admission fee and the main stadium hosts numerous events throughout the year. The main arena hosts national award shows and is constantly bustling. The city was unsure of their investment immediately following the games as they were suffering an economic downfall, but the park proved to add an enormous amount of economic gain- besides the thousands of job openings it created, it also created a centralized community center for each suburb of the London area. If Great Britain had a Super Bowl, this is definitely the venue where it would be held.
9. Turin, Italy (2006 Winter Olympics)
The Winter Olympics in Turin aren’t particularly remembered as a monumental Olympic year. But for the city of Turin, hosting the games was monumental for the city itself. After the Olympics, Turin transformed into a tourist destination in Italy. The Olympic infrastructures are now being used for ice skating competitions and a hot spot for hosting large events in the country. The village that world class skiers, figure skaters and bobsledders called home for their 16 day stay at the Olympics, is now home to refugees from Libya and Syria. Tens of thousands of refugees have found their temporary home at the Olympic grounds. The games were supposed to be a turning point for the city as many new and improved buildings were constructed for the games with the sole purpose of being sold for a costly fortune post-games, but the reality is that many of those buildings stand unoccupied. While some have gone to the great cause of helping those displaced from their homes, others have been left to deteriorate.
8. Vancouver, British Columbia (2010 Winter Olympics)
Vancouver has made use of the main stadium, ski jumps and Olympic Village. Vancouver prides itself in revamping their Olympic Village and turning it into one of the greenest living communities in the world. The infrastructures are now host to multiple exciting recreational activities for athletes and families. Vancouver also offers a variety of tours for die hard Olympic fans and for a fee, you can try your hand at biathlon shooting at the same range the Olympians used in 2010. Whistler Park is a bit of a drive out of the inner city of Whistler, but it is a great getaway destination where you can enjoy the beautiful views and imagine you are a gold medal athlete atop the ski jumps. For only $5, tourists agree that this is a must see if you happen to vacation in Whistler. Vancouver successfully avoided the white elephant outcome and is a model example of post-Olympic success.
7. Sochi, Russia (2012 Winter Olympics)
The Sochi Olympics have gone down as one of the most expensive Olympics in history. Russia invested about $51 billion to build and host the games on their turf. Virtually all of the structures built for the event stand abandoned, without any hope of utilization due to cost. Sochi is located in a desolate area that doesn’t have much going on around it, so it seems like revamping the park is more trouble (and money) than it is worth. Unfortunately, the most expensive park, may go down in history for being the least profitable. Tourists can stop by the park and most who do are in shock at the billions that were wasted on the arena. The elaborate Tulip Inn hotel was the hot spot for spectators and international Olympic team owners, but it now is eerily abandoned and the interior looks as if the Olympics just ended yesterday, rather than 4 years ago. Unfortunately, the company that constructed the site infrastructures is planning on filing bankruptcy. This expensive investment is another negative in Putin’s column.
6. Atlanta, Georgia (1996 Summer Olympics)
Atlanta is still trying to figure out what the future holds for their 20-year-old investment. The stadium has now been demolished and turned into parking spaces, but some of the other infrastructures are currently being utilized. The velodrome that hosted cycling events, was sold and moved out of the Atlanta area, while the aquatics centre is being used by George Tech. The most promising outcome of the investment is Turner Field. Turner Field is home to the Atlanta Braves and was converted post-Olympics for that purpose. Unfortunately, the city plans to demolish the stadium in 2017 as the team has outgrown the 50,000 seat stadium. Many diehard Braves fans are rightfully upset about the demise of their beloved hometown team’s playing field and believe that other utilization could be a better future for the stadium, but the city disagrees.
5. Los Angeles, California (1984 Summer Olympics)
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was also home to the 1932 Olympic games. This is one of the few infrastructures that was in existence prior to the city deciding to host. In 1923, the Coliseum became the home turf for the University of Southern California Trojans’ football team. The infrastructure was reused for the ’84 Olympics and is now in discussion for hosting the 2024 Olympic games. The only new infrastructure that was added for the 1984 games included the aquatic centre and velodrome- greatly cutting back the cost of hosting the games. The coliseum has hosted a variety of events and is home to the University of Southern California Trojans. Like other US Olympic host cities, the Olympic Village was turned into student housing for surrounding universities. The Memorial Coliseum is also a popular tourist destination and was also the home to the Los Angeles Rams.
4. Nagano, Japan (1998 Winter Olympics)
The modern infrastructures of the time are still standing today and are used for various concert and sporting events. The M-Wave is home to Nagano’s Olympic Museum and is a popular tourist attraction- a smart business decision made by Japan’s Post-Olympic Planning Committee. All of the arenas that were built for the games have been converted to more conventional sports stadiums for the country. The Aqua Wing Arena is now a multi-purpose aquatic centre, the main stadium is now a baseball stadium and the ice arena is still being utilized for that purpose and hosts numerous speed skating and figure skating events. Fortunately, Japan has been able to maintain revenue producing host cities, post-Olympic; Nagano City is 1 of 5 Japanese cities that have hosted the games. Recently, the Olympics have found their location for the 2020 games and it will again be hosted in Japan, but in Tokyo.
3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1928 Summer Olympics)
Amsterdam hosted the 1928 Summer Olympics and the venue is still in use today. It was converted a few times within the last century, with the most recent renovation in 2007. The main arena was renovated in 1996 and it still is used to host regular sporting events. Fortunately for Amsterdam, they have been able to maintain profitability from their original investment almost 100 years ago. These Olympics were memorable as they were the first Olympics that allowed women on the tracks, but after many women completed track races in pure exhaustion, the Olympics banned women from going as far as men in the races until 1960. Another memorable occurrence during these games was that Coca-Cola was a sponsor and still is to this day. Holland had previously bid 3 different times before being awarded the host city status in 1928. It is surprising that the city hasn’t been offered to host again.
2. Berlin, Germany (1936 Summer Olympics)
These games have often been referred to as the “Nazi Olympics” and took place at the Reichssportfeld. Berlin won the bid over Barcelona, Spain to host the events and the Third Reich took full advantage of their power as host city and proudly decorated the arena with Nazi symbols. When the host city was revealed, it was the first time that countries boycotted the games, including the US and European countries. The boycotts failed, and the games allowed Hitler to further his propaganda of Aryan racial superiority. The Reichssportfeld is still standing today and is seen as a historic tourist destination. The Olympic Village that warmly catered to Olympians, was turned into a military school, 3 months after the games came to a close. Now, the village is has been abandoned and is used as a tourist attraction. With the same construction techniques used by Athens (stone), the infrastructures give off a very historic vibe and are almost identical to how they looked back during their glory days.
1. Moscow, Russia (1980 Summer Olympics)
Unfortunately, Russia didn’t learn from their past mistake as they had hosted the Olympics in 1980 and the remaining infrastructure did not prove to be worth the investment (much like the case with Sochi). The Soviet Union had high hopes for a utopian future when they built the arena for the 1980 games. Again, these games were boycotted due to the political movements of the time. Many of the buildings are still abandoned, while others are used for sporting events. The Olympic Village was modeled after Soviet Bloc housing of the time and is still being used today. The aquatic centre is also in use, but only half of the centre built for Olympic swimmers is functional and maintained. The Soviet Union expected to prosper graciously post-Olympics, but the Cold War made Russia an undesirable tourist destination and the sites still in use don’t prove worth the trouble.
Although some of the Olympic venues were able to avoid the “white elephant” fate; others were not so lucky. Hopefully, Rio can utilize their venue when the Olympic games come to a close, but as history shows, that is not always the case.
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