Olympic ghosts

Olympic Ghosts: What Happens To Old Olympic Venues?

Glistening Olympic sites impress during the games, but afterwards many become forlorn Olympic ghosts without a future.  

A rich history of host locations has left the world a number of enormous venues, many built specifically for Olympic events. In this last decade alone, some old venues have been put to use, while others have left cities in debt or been abandoned.

Here’s the last decade of Olympic venue usage. Have cities benefitted from the games and the repurposing of old facilities, or left their arenas to decay?

2014 Sochi Olympics Ghosts

Costing a whopping $51 billion to construct, and representing the most expensive games to date, the 2014 Sochi site sits silent most of the year.  The high cost of the project has deterred other countries from making Olympic bids, according to some.

Today the Sochi site sits lonely and forlorn, a ghost town of under-used athletes’ villages, transportation infrastructure and event buildings.

2012: London Olympic Stadium
$16 billion
Olympic ghosts
Photo courtesy of Si B via Flickr.

Constructed primarily for the Summer Olympics in 2012, bids for the 80,000 capacity space started in 2010. After three years, passed deadlines, and tricky negotiations, the stadium was finally leased to West Ham soccer club in 2013. The 99-year lease of 2 million euros a month begins in 2016/17 season, according to the Stadium Guide.[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”bCL8AHxoJXn9bwiIbjw6beprF0LT2MnN”]

The stadium will undergo reconstruction, limiting the capacity to 54,000 at an additional cost of 25 million euros to taxpayers. Though this isn’t universally thrilling due to added costs, it’s better than letting the site become an olympic ghosts relic.

West Ham insists taxpayers will eventually profit off the revenue, though others see it as a “white elephant” in the making, the Guardian says.

Verdict: Overall, two thirds of Brits think the games were worth the cost, and reports show the economy was boosted by $13 billion, among other benefits.

2010: Vancouver Olympic Village (and other venues)
$7 billion
Olympic ghosts
Photo courtesy of adrian8_8 via Flickr.

Though the Olympic BC Place Stadium in Vancouver was not built for the Olympics, the Olympic Village – which was built specifically for the Winter Games – is finally inching toward enough economic success post-games to justify the cost.

Soon after construction began in 2008, their developer defaulted on the loans necessary to build the Village, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to fall squarely on the city in 2009. Finally, Vancouver is seeing this pay off as the village begins to transform into a trendy community, according to The Globe and Mail.

Verdict: Overall, things for Vancouver look better: necessary Olympic investments such as a new highway and convention center have benefited the community greatly, at minimal cost to taxpayers – well worth the $7 billion price tag, according to a study commissioned by the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Reports estimate the economy was boosted by $2.3 billion post games.

2008: Beijing Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium (and other venues)
cost: $42 billion
olympic ghosts
Photo courtesy of Mitah Sittig via Flickr.

Built specifically for the Summer Olympics as a 90,000-capacity symbol of China’s ascending financial prowess, Beijing’s once-impressive Bird’s Nest stadium has since found little economic purpose, sliding by instead as a tourist attraction.

The mostly-vacant stadium as now a museum  that takes about $11 million a year to maintain, yet has no regular tenant, according to the Atlantic.

A number of money-making tactics have been attempted, NPR says, but all that has been successful (if slightly) is a waterpark, a segway tour, and waxworks museum – less useful than they are excess vanity entertainment.

Verdict: Beijing’s direct revenue from the 2008 Olympics was not marvelous, though the city profited indirectly (pdf) in terms of GDP and investments. Still, it remains a site of Olympic ruin.

The worst part? It could take up to 30 years to pay off  the $471 million cost of the Bird’s Nest, alone.

2006: Turin, Italy’s Winter Olympic venues
$3 billion
Olympic ghosts
Photo courtesy of iMaffo via Flickr.

With a reused stadium, Italy’s Olimpico di Torino is luckily still in use for sports games and other large events. Other structures, such as the luge track and ski lifts, were forced to close due to high costs, according to ESPN.

With the city itself spending at least $300 million, Turin also had to make up a $34.2 million deficit, largely to “technical issues” regarding taxes owed on revenue and donation.[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”bCL8AHxoJXn9bwiIbjw6beprF0LT2MnN”]

Other venues were successfully repurposed, with one facility now the home of a massive global food trade center, and the Olympic Village converted into low-cost housing.

Verdict: Though excessive spending landed Turin in short-term debt, on a longer-term level the city has enjoyed success due to increased tourism, GDP growth, and higher employment rates since the games.

2004: Athens, Greece Olympic venues
$12 billion

Olympic ghosts

The city that started the modern Olympic Games was honored as the host city of 2004’s Summer Olympics, an endeavor that cost billions of dollars in construction and post-9/11 security.

Since then, Athens has seen many of their once magnificent venues fall into disrepair, due in part to poor long-term planning, the Guardian says.

While the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Village, and some small arenas have found use, the aquatics center, volleyball arena, softball arena, and massive Helliniko Olympic Complex are all Olympic ghosts and  relics of past glory, which likely played a role in Greece’s eventual bankruptcy.

Verdict: Athens was hoping that the “Olympic Effect” would boost their economy, as often does for other cities. Instead, it added to Greece’s financial instability at costs twice their original estimate – not including the additional price of venue maintenance, much of which has been left to the ghosts.

Updated. Olympic ghosts cover photo courtesy of Metro Centric via Flickr; ghost from Wikimedia Commons.

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