Abandoned Olympic Venues
After 16 days...
For sixteen glorious days, the world's eyes are upon the Olympics. Hundreds of thousands pour into the host city and pack the brand new venues built specifically for the games. Hundreds of millions of dollars are pumped into the local economy as Olympic fever spreads like wildfire.
Yet the question remains, what has become of the multi-million dollar Olympic venues that were built specifically for the Olympics? With their purpose fulfilled, these brand new, state-of-the-art facilities will now begin the rest of their existence in obscurity. They join an ever growing list of former Olympic venues, fate uncertain. Some have been repurposed, others torn down. Yet there are a few that have simply been left to decay, abandoned by the very cities that built them. Once prestigious, now a financial burden so great, some cities have simply chosen to forget about them.
The Paris 1924 Olympics brought prestige to a country rebuilding from the ruin of World War I. Once the games closed, nearly all of the venues were either repurposed or dismantled. Today only one venue, the Stade de Paris, has fallen into disuse and neglect. Built for the football games, the stadium enjoyed a long career in rugby hosting long after the games. In 1999 it was damaged by a storm and as since fallen into neglect.
The infamous 1936 'Nazi Games' kicked off in Berlin just before the eve of the most destructive war the planet has ever known. Opened by none other than Adolf Hitler himself, the games were exploited as a propaganda tool by its host nation to promote the German master race. Not surprisingly this philosophy met one embarrassing defeat after another. When war broke out two years later, the Olympics quickly faded into memory.
While some of the venues remained active in the decades following the games, parts of Olympic Village fell into disrepair and disuse. The dormitories, the indoor training pool and several other buildings were left to rot. Only in the last ten years has the German government moved to save these historic buildings from certain decay. Only 25 of the 140+ buildings that were built actually survive.
The Soviet Union, People's Republic of China and Israel all make their Olympic debuts at Helsinki, Finland. Originally scheduled for 1940, the summer games at Helsinki were canceled once World War II broke out across the globe.
Nearly all of the Helsinki venues were either repurposed, recycled or dismantled. Only one of the swimming pools has been left to decay.
Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956
How could you have a winter games without snow? It was the biggest problem at the Italian Games. A warm winter with little snowfall forced the Italian Army to truck in tons of it for the events. These winter Olympics had many game changing events; The last to have outdoor figure skating. The first to rely more on private and corporate sponsorships instead of government funding. The debut winter games of the Soviet Union which swept the games with more medals than any other.
Most of the venues enjoyed long careers after the games that continue today. The Trampolino Olimpico fell silent after 1990 when its competition certificates expired. The jump built for the games and later the Ski Jumping World Cup now rots away.
Germany couldn't escape it's Olympic Infamous as the Munich 1972 were quickly overshadowed by the 'Munich Massacre'. Eleven Israli athletes and coaches were kidnapped from the Munich Olympic Village and killed by Palestinian terrorists.
Following the Games, the Olympiapark has remained largely in use. The Olympic Village has since been turned into apartments. Only the Olympic Village Rain Station, purpose built to accommodate the huge influx of people for the games has remained abandoned.
The world's most secretive country has always been selective about the Soviet Era Moscow Games. Even today, Russian chooses to downplay the Moscow Games. Most of the Olympic arenas were converted from existing facilities and once the games ended were quietly recycled or demolished.
One venue however has since joined the ever growing pantheon of abandoned Olympic facilities. The Linnahall Amphitheater in Estonia, purpose built for the Soviet Games could not survive once the crowds returned home. The concrete landmass fell into disuse almost immediately after and hasn't been used since.
In what is now Bosnia, Sarajevo was the host of the 1984 Winter Olympics. A total of nine venues were built and used for the games. After their sixteen day spotlight, the venues were immediately abandoned as the region grew unstable and ultimately fell into civil war less than ten years later. Several, such as the bobsled venue, were used as military installations throughout the Bosnian War. They have remained abandoned ever since. Only the Zetra Olympic Hall, the venue that saw the closing ceremonies, remains in active use.
It's rare to see a United States hosted Olympic venue fall into disrepair, yet that ominous title falls to the 1996 Centennial Games in Atlanta. The historic games were haunted by tragedy when a pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Park killing one and injuring 111. Despite this, the games were a financial success, something something very rare in the modern Olympics. Nearly all of the venues were recycled and enjoyed long careers in the decades that followed.
Despite Atlanta's efforts, some of the venues fallen into neglect. When Olympic Stadium was converted into Turner Field, the Olympic Torch was moved to its current location next to a freeway where it's been all but forgotten. The Stone Mountain Tennis complex, built for the games, achieved its abandonment titled in 2007. All sixteen courts are slowly falling down.
In the founding city of the Olympics, ten years after its events, the Olympia Venue in Athens lays in ruins. Once the most complete sports complex in all of Europe, it is now a symbol of Greece' misplaced extravagance and ruined economy.
Most of the park has been left to decay. The few venues that are still in use haven't been maintained in years. Rust stains the paint and graffiti is everywhere. Many of the purpose specific buildings haven't been used since the games. Venues like the Beach Ball Volleyball stadium, weightlifting, table tennis and swimming have all been left to rot. Many Greece citizens blame the 2004 Olympics for contributing to their country's collapse. Imagine spending over $11 billion on an Olympic Village, using it once, and then abandoning it. Only the stadium has remained actively used.
The only thing that separates these modern ruins with the Parthenon is several thousand years.
The opulence and extravagance of the 2008 Olympics in China shattered all expectations across the globe. Nearly 5 million visitors filled the park in a spectacle that will probably never be seen again. City blocks of fireworks, billions of LED lit screens, thousands of drummers, singers, it was shattering to say the least. The one billion people of China supported the Olympics at a staggering scale. But now......
Everyone knows someone who lives only for the moment, who rarely looks to the future in terms of financial or career plans. One could compare the 2008 Olympics as that person. Officials admitted that the organizers failed to consider long term uses for such purpose specific venues. The games were truly historic, the first Chinese hosted Olympics. Naturally the Chinese wanted to send a statement to the world, that they would spare no expense regardless of the lone term consequences.
Communist China's natural fear of large crowds also contributes to the infrequent use of much of the park. The famous Bird's Nest stadium so infrequently used that it's management team estimates that it would take 30 years to recuperate the $480 million building cost. The Water Cube, built next door, is barely breaking even and is only doing so with government funding.
Other venues have been completely abandoned. Venues like the kayaking course, volleyball stadium, and the rowing course rot away.
After putting Russia back on the map with the most expensive winter games in history, the venues at Sochi now sit silent. Built to serve not only the Olympics in 2014, but as Russia's center for international events for the foreseeable future. At least that was President Putin's ideal plan. But as the region slowly deteriorates into civil unrest, Soshi sits idle, adding yet another site to the list of abandoned Olympic venues.
Remember the Sochi Problems? There's an ongoing one now. Russian promises of a sustainable future at the Sochi complex just aren't panning out. After dropping $51 billion on the state of the art campus, Russia has struggled to find a purpose for its former Olympic venue. Some have dubbed it the "Museum of Corruption" since Russia hasn't recovered the cost of Sochi and won't for the foreseeable future. The companies that own the complex skirt bankruptcy with its daily operating costs. Only time will tell if Sochi will join Athens in total abandonment.
It's too early to tell with Rio 2016. With problems rivaling Sochi in the weeks leading up to the games, incomplete buildings, contaminated water. Hell, the Australian team even refused to move into the Olympic village. Can't forget how the swimming pool turned green either. If these are bad omens for the campus after the games, god help Rio.