The Olympics and Preservation I: What Happens to Olympic Parks after the Games?

So much goes into preparing for and hosting the Olympics. The host city must construct venues for the events (some are beautiful architectural feats like the Bird’s Nest in Beijing), navigate infrastructure issues (roads and side walks in and around the Olympic park), and then there is lodging and public transportation for the thousands of visitors who flock to the games.  London made headlines and drew criticism (who can forget this political gaffe?) in the lead up to the opening ceremonies thanks to traffic issues, problems with security and other kinks that still needed to be ironed out. This illustrated the tremendous amount of time, effort, money and coordination necessary to pull off such an event.  All of this with the world watching – for about two weeks anyway.

bird's nest

The Bird’s Nest via

So what happens to the Olympic Park after the games? These are places where history is made – records won, political tensions brought to the forefront (the Nazi Olympics, countries not invited, etc) and sometimes they are the site of tragedy (1972 Munich Olympics hostage situation).  Disuse and lack of purpose is a great threat to historic places.

I did a little poking around on the internet and it turns out that the venues are dealt with in a variety of ways.  As would be expected, some continue to be used as sports facilities, to house other large events, tourist attractions or as housing (athlete villages) while others are abandoned/demolished.  In some cites just a few of the facilities are maintained while other are deserted or demolished.

Now that the 2012 Summer Olympics have wrapped,  the 500 acre Olympic Park is being referred to as a “legacy” and promises have been made to use the facilities to the benefit of Londoners for years to come.  In that spirit, here are a few cities who have put their Olympic venues to good use.

Some cities continue to use the facilities for sporting events.

Athens’ 2004 stadium is often used for soccer events and has been set on fire numerous times by soccer hooligans.  Melbourne’s 1956 venues are now a part of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct and are regularly used for sporting events. Munich’s 1972 Schwimmhalle, where Michael Spitz won 7 gold medals is available to swim teams, has been the site of the Munich Triathalon since 2003 and is open to the public.

Munchen Olympia-Schwimmhalle

Schwimmhalle, 1972 Summer Olympics Munich via Allyson Angle

Canada Olympic Park, host of the 1988 Winter Olympics is now a high performance training facility as well as a recreational facility open to the public. It is also used for zip lining and summer camps during the summer. The Lake Placid venue (Winter 1932 and 1980) are similarly used.The National Trust recently published a great slideshow of the Lake Placid facilities here.

Cyclist at Canada Olympic Park via

Some former Olympic venues are currently used for cultural events.

The Magdalena Mixhuca, site of the 1968 Summer Olympics is now a sports and culture venue.  The Olympiapark in Munich, host of the 1972 Summer Olympics is a cultural, social and religious venue. It is used for festivals, ice dancing expos, and religious events.


Tollwood Festival at Olympiapark in Munich via  Destination Munich

Former Athlete Housing now used by Students.

In Atlanta, the 1996 Olympic Athlete’s Village is now housing for students at Georgia Tech and Clark Atlanta University. Likewise, the women’s Olympic Village in Munich (1972) is also student housing. (In fact, a friend’s mother lived in the facility when she was in college in Munich).

These are great examples of host cities that use the expensive facilities and infrastructure they constructed for the Olympics after the two week event.

Though the powers that be in London  have a long way to go to put into place their plans for using the 2012 facilities (including the construction of a new university, turning the Athletes’ Village into apartments, opening an Olympics museum, and other tourist attractions), these examples prove it can be done.


One comment

  1. Pingback: The Olympics and Preservation II: Abandoned or Demolished « Bricks + Mortar

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