The Sad, Wasteful Afterlife of Olympic Venues


Cities spend hundreds of millions of dollars (at least!) attracting the Olympics, preparing for the tourist onslaught, housing athletes and getting people to and fro. But what happens when the hoopla is over? Some cities manage to re-purpose the infrastructure built for the games—Atlanta handed much of its Olympic park over to Georgia Tech, for example. But many, perhaps most, of the building is ultimately left to rot. 

Photographers Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit have put together a project that follows up on the legacy of the Games. It's called The Olympic City and a bunch of their snaps are currently on display at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City, August 8 to 18. 

Some of the most striking evidence that Olympic infrastructure may not be an efficient use of resources below.

Beach Volleyball Stadium from 2008 Beijing Olympics:

Train station built for 1972 Munich Olympics:

Swimming Stadium built for 1952 Lake Ahvenisto, Finland, Olympics:

Photos from Flavorwire and Sociological Images.

For more, read Shikha Dalmia on the death of sports socialsm in London, Jesse Walker on why Paris was lucky to lose out to London for hosting duties, and Nick Gillespie celebrating Chicago's loss to Rio.

NEXT: Penn State's Accreditation "In Jeopardy"

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  1. There’s not much creepier than an abandoned train station in Germany.

    1. The abandoned ski jumps are pretty cool. Ski jumping has to be seen to be believed. TV doesn’t do it justice. Those jumps are the size of apartment buildings.

    2. Nobody does bleak like Germans.

      What is their obsession with bare concrete, anyway?

      1. Of all their obsessions, that one bothers me the least

    3. What if the abandoned train station in Germany was doing this?

    4. There’s not much creepier than an abandoned train station in Germany.

      Oh, there’s plenty… http://www.forgottendetroit.com/

      1. Yeah, run of the mill abandoned buildings, even on a large scale, or abandoned train stations reminiscent of the transporting of millions to die. I’m still gonna go with the latter.

      2. Are you suggesting Detroit should place a bid?

        1. Why not? If you’re going to go bankrupt, go big.

    5. While visiting Munich a few years ago I went over to the Olympic Park. The whole area is pretty creepy and bleak. Kind of like walking around in some dystopian novel.

      1. I would think that the thought that that is where they massacred the Israeli Olympians would make it extra creepy.

        You want to talk really creepy, go to the old Nazi Party parade grounds in Nuremburg sometime. The site of pure evil. The place gave me the willies.

        1. I actually had to explain that part to the girl I was with.

        2. Dachau takes the cake

          1. Haven’t been to a death camp, and have no plans to do so, thanks.

            Now, the tidbit yesterday that the Normandy beaches actually have a significant amount of shrapnel in them, still, that made me want to go there even more. Go figure.

            1. Dachau stuck with me for a long time. Haven’t been to the Normandy beaches, but I did get to experience Checkpoint Charlie in all of its full operational glory.

              1. Checkpoint Charlie

                Was it as unnerving as one could imagine?

                1. It was unnerving and, at the same time, quite funny. The chief border guard was a woman named Helga. She was built like a brick shithouse and had Tammy Faye levels of eye shadow. She obviously understood English, but refused to speak it. Instead she just berated us (all teenagers) in German for a half hour about our dokumente before letting us pass. It all seemed quite staged and pointless.

        3. Yeah my thought was that if anything is creepier than an abandoned train station in Germany, it’s an active train station in Germany, if you know what I’m sayin’, and I think the Jewish do.

          1. Most of the Jews who were deported from Paris went through the Orsay train station. And returned through it as well, the ones who survived anyway.

            It is now one of the world’s most lovely art museums.

            1. I am glad that you waited until after my four-hour leisurely tour of the Musee D’Orsay to tell me that, John.

              1. That’s what you get for looking at art.

        4. “People forget that the first nation the Nazis conquered was their own” — that guy that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.

      2. Haven’t been in Europe a ton, and have not seen concentration camps or Munich.

        What creeped me out right here in Teh US of A was the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, which has a ton of stuff about the slave trade, the Underground Railroad, etc. Visited a couple years ago.

        The recreated mud hut to represent slave housing just gave me the fucking creeps all day. Don’t know why – but every time I looked at that, I wanted to cry. Slavery – What a horrible fucking thing to have done to other people.

        1. I was always amazed at how all traces of the antebellum South were totally erased. Margaret Mitchell wasn’t kidding when she said that world was gone with the wind. I remember living in Atlanta and going out and riding around the Georgia countryside. And that is real slave country. And you would never know any of that happened. All those plantations, that entire world is gone without leaving a trace.

          1. Yeah, Freedom Center attempts to recreate it. It definitely affected me. I just felt like shit thinking “human beings DID this”. It made it seem very real for whatever reason. It was really distressing.

          2. You should probably visit the coast of SC or GA or plenty of places in the Deep South. It has definitely not been totally erased.

            1. FDR’s make-work projects and the Interstate Highway projects helped destroy a lot of things people didn’t like.

              I can understand wanting to see the stuff to get a feel for the reality. On the other hand, a shitload of tax money would be wasted preserving that stuff, too.

          3. Emory University was sited on land that was once a plantation.

          4. George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon, has been restored to its full 18th Century plantation glory. In fact, the Estate and a few politicians are trying to get it included as a world heritage site for that reason, but since it is the home of an American political figure it keeps getting rejected.

            1. At least Washington freed his slaves upon his death, unlike Jefferson.

        2. I’ll have to check that out next time I’m in Cincinnati.

          I know it’s trite, but the creepy thing about the Nazi death camps was the level of organization. The places were built like assembly-line factories, just for killing people instead of black Model-T’s.

          1. Part of me wants to see a Dachau or Treblinka or Auschwitz just to face the horrible reality…but part of me is a pussy and doesn’t want to REALLY see it. Cause I’ll cry like a baby if/when I do…I know it.

            1. Yeah, the Holocaust Museum in DC was enough for me. Although if I ever make it over there again I should probably suck it up and go.

            2. Every once in a while the Ukrainian museum in NYC has an exhibition on the Holodomor. I’ve always wanted to see it, but never had the chance. Probably just as well, everything I’ve read about it has been brutal.

            3. The crematorium at Dachau was somewhat creepy, but the grounds really weren’t – until I saw the pictures and recognized in them the places I had just been.

            4. Cause I’ll cry like a baby if/when I do…I know it.

              Yeah, me too. I was watching TV the other evening and there was a documentary about the Holocaust. They were showing footage of Nazi’s “sorting” Jews into various categories. I just started bawling because it was so heart wrenching.

          2. And, PS, I do highly recommend the Freedom Center. We’re thinking about going back down to see if they’ve added some more.

          3. the creepy thing about the Nazi death camps was the level of organization

            ^THIS^ The most chilling aspect of the holocaust, at least to me, was the way the Nazis went out of their way to make killing as many as people as possible as efficient as they possibly could. It’s the thought that human beings were/ are capable of that level of depravity that’s really unnerving.

            1. Don’t get on the FEMA trains.

  2. In fairness, there was a war in Bosnia. So the venues are not the only thing that fell into disrepair. And some of that stuff is 80 years old. It should be run down. Just because the swimming venue in Halsinki is rundown now sixty years later, doesn’t mean it didn’t have a useful life.

    That being said, there is reason not to use temporary facilities for a lot of this stuff.

  3. But it’s infrastructure! Any spending on infrastructure is an investment that saves money in the long run!

    1. And don’t forget the multiplier effect.

  4. Actually, the Finnish swimming pool looks like it could be rehabilitated without too much effort. Of course, outdoor pools in Finland are not terribly popular given the extremely short usable season.

    1. How did Finland manage to land a summer games?

      1. They probably threatened to cut off Europe’s supply of salmiakki flavored vodka.

      2. After World War II. France was wrecked. No one was giving Germany a games. And the UK had already hosted them in 48. So that left Scandinavia as the only place left in Europe.

      3. It was an ‘attaboy’ for knocking the stuffing out of both the Reds and the Nazis.

      4. Helsinki was supposed to host the 1940 Games that were cancelled by WWII. Tokyo was originally going to host 1940 but withdrew because of the war with China.

        London was supposed to host 1944 by the way.

        1. 1936 Berlin, 1940 Tokyo, 1980 Moscow…
          The IOC can really pick ’em…

  5. I still get shocked looks when I sincerely tell people that I hope the Olympics never come to the US again.

    1. I don’t get the shocked looks. My friends already know I’m pretty much a Capitalist Pig, so of COURSE I don’t think the US should host the Olympics.

      I’m kind of proud they know that 🙂

      1. It’s funny that they all talk about “international cooperation” and blahblahblah with the Olympics (“don’t you want international cooperation!?”) My response: “Sure I do. That’s why I support global free trade. Then we have international cooperation every day, and it’s between the people of the world, not the autofellating leaders.” Them: “You obviously want children to die in factories”

        1. You need some friends who aren’t douche rockets.

          1. Well, in their defense, those weren’t really friends. My actual friends think my point there is good..

        2. You should remind them about the strong ties the leaders of the IOC had to Nazism and fascism for decades.

  6. The Olympics are an obscenely wasteful use of money promoting trash sports. (Synchronized ribbon twirling, come on?) No U.S. taxpayer should vote to approve one in the U.S. without first getting 100% of the costs upfront from the tv networks and sponsors.

    1. The 84 LA games made a profit. But wow they had it in a place with a great climate and a ton of existing venues instead of a second rate city with few existing venues. Go figure.

      1. I believe LA was the only city to “bid”, so they didn’t waste a ton of cash trying to bring the games to teh city in the first place.

  7. DETROIT 2028, BITCHES. That’ll definitely revive the city!

    1. Give the contract to OCP

      1. “Come quietly or there’ll be trouble….”

      2. Be more amusing if you gave it to ICP. Juggalo Olympics, bitches! The first one to have the Faygo / Purple Drank chug as a medal sport.

    2. Those will be the Prison Island of Detroit Olympics.

    3. If they really want international cooperation, they should do Detroit/Windsor. Then everyone can see the Canada/US security dichotomy.

  8. The Olympics are an overpriced, nationalistic dick-measuring contest (let’s go to the medal counts where, oh look, America’s gold penis is bigger than China’s gold penis! USA! USA! USA!) that usually impoverishes the city that has the misfortune to host them. It’s not entirely unlike the old travelling circuses, except you’re less likely to be cheated or raped by carneys.

    1. except you’re less likely to be cheated or raped by carneys.

      That just takes the fun out of it.

    2. And with the demise of the Commie East Germany and their “female” athletes, we’re less likely to see the Bearded Lady as well…

    3. (let’s go to the medal counts where, oh look, America’s gold penis is bigger than China’s gold penis! USA! USA! USA!)

      You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      1. “We cannot achieve so much with such small penis, but you American wow, penis so big, so big penis!”

  9. It’s a good thing property values in London are so high so no building there will be left to rot. The 2010 World Cup stadiums in South Africa are not being much used either.

  10. Atlanta handed much of its Olympic park over to Georgia Tech

    Not exactly true. Most of the olympic village was built on Tech’s campus (as was the natatorium), so Tech got those. The park that got blown up is a city park. The few dorms built across from campus went to Georgia State, IIRC.

    1. Turner Field as well.

  11. “Swimming Stadium built for 1952 Lake Ahvenisto, Finland, Olympics:”

    It’s 60 years old FFS.

    1. So are some of this country’s youngest universities, and their athletic facilities don’t look like that.

      Care to guess why?

    2. It’s a 60 year old waste of money I guess

    3. Also, according to the website of the city of Helsinki the swimming stadium is still in use and doesn’t look nearly as decrepit. I’m guessing they took the pictures of the swimming pool during the off season.

      1. During the offseason in Finland, there would be 9 feet of fucking snow covering everything.

    4. My house is older.

  12. Rio is going to save time and build stuff that looks like that to begin with. If they can manage to get them built at all. Brazil promised to build a whole. new. airport. to handle the traffic for the world cup. Last I heard they haven’t awarded the construction contracts yet.

  13. Beach Volleyball Stadium from 2008 Beijing Olympics

    Please tell me they didn’t build a stadium that was only for Beach Volleyball. That could be played in pretty much any stadium. It doesn’t need its own special facility. Just truck in a bunch of sand and then clean it up after your done.

    Yeah, we should totally emulate China. What a fucking joke.

    1. Dude, China builds entire cities with no people in them. One little beach volleyball stadium is nothing.

      1. INFRASTRUCTURE!!!!11!!!!111!!

      2. ROADZ!!11!! BRIDGES!!!11!! TRAINZ!111!! INFRASTRUCTURE!!!1!!!!!111!!

        1. The economic growth is sure to follow. They’re just on the flat part of the exponential curve.

    2. That Beijing beach volleyball stadium photo surprises me…I’m pretty sure that was built as a temporary stadium, as several Olympic venues are these days. Was there nobody available to tear it down? Or is the photo from shortly after the games finished?

      In London this year the beach volleyball stadium and basketball arena were both built as temporary structures designed to come down after the games, and I’m sure others were as well.

      1. In China temporary simply means they only use it for a short time. It has nothing to do with whether they tear it down or not.

      2. Okay, volleyball, sure — tear it down. Who watches volleyball.

        But doesn’t London have at least some pro basketball teams?

  14. Thanks, that makes more sense. So (at least in Beijing) facilities designed for a two month shelf life no longer look shiny? And facilities designed for longer use still attract visitors? Sounds pretty efficient.

    1. (Meant as a reply to Sidd Finch.)

  15. Just build one permanent top of the line Olympics site and have the Olympics there every time. Athens, Greece probably can’t afford it, so put it in Athens, Georgia or somewhere else in the US. That way we could at least watch some of the big time events live in prime time.

    1. How about Athens, Alabama?

  16. I am surprised to see these venues not being used. What a waste…

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