The Olympic Games are always very exciting. It’s fun to cheer for your country and watch some sports that you otherwise don’t see very often. The games seem, as well, like they would be a huge benefit and provide an economic boost to the host country. Perhaps, however, the perceived benefits of hosting the Olympic Games aren’t quite as great as they seem. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the abandoned, run-down old Olympic venues around the world. (1)
Abandoned Former Olympic Venues
One of the fun parts of watching the Olympic games is seeing all of the incredible Olympic venues that the host city builds. Many of them aren’t just tracks, swimming pools, and racecourses – they are works of art.
Unfortunately, when the Olympic torch is blown out at the end of the tournament and all the athletes and fans go home, what happens next? Well, most of the time, many of these venues simply wither away into ruin. A large reason behind this is because the upkeep costs of these venues are high and venue use is, well, quite low.
The Olympic Coast
First, let’s start by going over the cost of hosting the Olympic games. First, if you want to be a host city, more than a decade in advance of when you actually host the games you have to put in a bid. This bidding process is long and expensive. It is not uncommon to have spent more than $100 million by the time you get selected – and you haven’t even begun construction yet.
Next, you have to actually begin building the venues. The challenge with building stadiums and Olympic venues is that they actually have a very firm due date – there is no “extra time” allowance. Construction crews are often working a lot of overtime, if not nearly 24 hours around. This means that overtime wages and other expenses rack up quite quickly. The cost of building the Olympics always ends up being far higher than the city originally estimated. (2)
Tourism: Boom or Bust?
This one is very city-dependent. Some cities find that hosting the Olympics does revitalize their image and draw a lot more tourism. Thanks to the games, Barcelona revamped its waterfront and ended up attracting many more tourists – not just during the games, but also afterward. The summers that London and Beijing each hosted the games, however, non-Olympic-related tourist venues saw a decline in foot traffic.
One positive aspect that can sometimes come out of hosting the Olympics is the improvements made to the city’s infrastructure. Bridges and roads are repaired, public transit is improved, and public buildings are given much-needed face-lifts. Cities like Barcelona, Vancouver, Seoul, and London got clean-ups and revitalization to various aspects of their cities.
In other cases, however, this was not as successful. In some cases, like Rio de Janeiro, the transit line built really only services higher-income neighborhoods.
The LeftOver Olympic Venues
In most cities, new stadiums, tracks, and other facilities need to be built in order to support the variety of sports to be played there. Whereas some cities, such as Los Angeles, were able to simply update many of their existing facilities, in other places this was not possible. Athens is famous for its abandoned Olympic venues, whereas Sydney and Beijing have repurposed their venues to serve the public and make the city better. Sochi and Montreal are two other cities that famously suffered from their stage in hosting the Olympic Games. (3)
Out-of-use Olympic venues are known as “white elephants”. This is because the reason why they didn’t exist prior to the Olympics was that there was no need or viable economic use for them. Many of them, especially specific venues like bobsleigh tracks and ski jumps, don’t have much use after the games. For this reason, venues are left to wallow and turn to ruins of a former time.