Olympic Venues – Is the price worth it?

Now that the 2018 Winter Olympics have come to a close I thought the venues from past & present would be an interesting topic to research. These venues can cost billions (yes, billions, with a b) of dollars to build, not to mention the resources and countless hours spent on labor along with the money that goes into maintaining them. What happens to the venues after the athletes and the tourists pack up and go home?

Many of the past Olympic venues are still standing and being maintained today. Some have found different uses, whether it’s being used for trade shows and movie shoots (Montreal, 1976 games) or becoming the home for new athletic teams (London, 2012 games)[1]. However, just because they are in use does not mean that the towns have seen a profit, or even broken even. As a result, nearly every Olympic games has lost money, with the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which made use of existing facilities and is considered the most financially successful ever (GO USA!)[2].

So are they worth the money, and resources, they cost to maintain? There is certainly debate to that, and some organizing committees are coming up with different ways to address the issue.

Pyeongchang, home of the 2018 winter Olympics is planning to tear down the Olympic Stadium after being used four times. Rather than let the venue fall into inevitable disrepair, they built their arena with a short life in mind. This allowed them to keep costs down by skipping different amenities it would have needed for long-term use, like a roof or heat[3].

Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, has plans to use a modular stadium, built out of shipping containers, so it can be dissembled and reassembled at other locations. The issue with modular units, however, is if they will meet the standards put forth. For example, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) “requires vast infrastructure to support all sorts of media, medical, hospitality, and other uses in ‘back of house’ operations that require a lot more built elements”[4].

The other option is to hold the games in a permanent location, reusing the facilities over and over again. An obvious choice for location would be Athens, considering the games originated in Greece. However, giving one country the job of permanent host could present some other problems. Obvious ones include the political and economic climate[5]. The not so obvious ones include giving the host country more control than the IOC.

But what about sustainability?

Many of the arenas have been recycled or repurposed into new venues. Some of the more notable ones[6]:

  • Barcelona in 1992 – created 2 miles of beachfront & a modern marina to transform the area into a tourist destination.
  • Atlanta in 1996 – downtown center that offers a summer play fountain, live music and festivals.
  • Sydney in 2000 – hosts sporting, musical, business, and cultural events.

Giving the stadiums new life seems to be the most obvious option, along with the ability to build them with sustainable techniques and materials.

Moving Forward:

The three pillars of Olympic Agenda 2020 include credibility, youth and sustainability. For its part, the IOC has a sustainability strategy, which you can find here. It focuses on infrastructure and natural sites, sourcing and resource management, mobility, workforce, and climate[7].

Only time will tell if the newest requirements will make a difference in the building and maintaining of the stadiums. But, as with anything, as time evolves we learn from the past, try new things and attempt to make a difference.

[1] Horwitz, Josh. “Why It’s Innovative—Not Wasteful—to Destroy the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.” Quartz, qz.com/1204561/why-its-innovative-not-wasteful-to-destroy-the-pyeongchang-olympic-stadium/.

[2] Smith, Stuart. “Olympic Sports Venues, the Price of Beauty.” Mintek, 7 July 2016, http://www.mintek.com/blog/eam-cmms/olympic-sports-venues-price-beauty/.

[3] Horwitz, Josh. “Why It’s Innovative—Not Wasteful—to Destroy the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.” Quartz, qz.com/1204561/why-its-innovative-not-wasteful-to-destroy-the-pyeongchang-olympic-stadium/.

[4] Horwitz, Josh. “Why It’s Innovative—Not Wasteful—to Destroy the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.” Quartz, qz.com/1204561/why-its-innovative-not-wasteful-to-destroy-the-pyeongchang-olympic-stadium/.

[5] Little, Becky. “Neglected and Recycled Olympic Stadiums From Around the World.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 5 Aug. 2016, news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/world-olympics-rio-stadiums-games-sports/.

[6] Barber, Megan. “6 Olympic Venues with the Best Afterlives.” Curbed, Curbed, 22 Feb. 2018, http://www.curbed.com/2018/2/22/17036724/olympic-venues-still-in-use-vancouver-salt-lake-sydney-atlanta.

[7] “Thomas Bach.” International Olympic Committee, 25 Feb. 2018, http://www.olympic.org/sustainability.

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