Sunday, the 2012 Summer Olympics went out with a big British bang. The closing ceremonies included
Peter Pettigrew Winston Churchill reciting Shakespeare and other wonderful absurdness. But what happens to the 500 acre, $760 million Olympic Park now?
The Olympic Committee promised that the park would become a legacy. The buildings that once showcased and housed the best athletes in the world will not be abandoned, but will be used to benefit the community.
In yesterday’s post, I discussed some success stories: former Olympic facilities that have been maintained and are still in use as sports and culture facilities or as housing. This not only preserves these important cultural assets, but also provides economic benefits to communities.
Unfortunately, not all cities are able or willing to continue to use former Olympic facilities. Some cities have abandoned the facilities, while others have demolished them to make way for new development. The following are a few examples.
In London, the 1908 Olympics’ White City Stadium or “Great Stadium” was used for several exhibitions, athletics, grey hound racing, and other events (including the 1966 World Cup) until 1985 when it was demolished to make way for the BBC Broadcast Centre Building. Although demolishing such a storied structure isn’t a preservationist’s dream, the BBC made an effort to commemorate the site. The 1908 Olympic athlete’s are listed on the side of the building and the finishing line is marked on the sidewalk.
Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle, where the boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting events for the 1936 Olympics were held, was demolished in 2011. Built by Hitler, it was once the largest sports arena in the world and was the site for large Nazi rallies. It was replaced by a conference and exhibition center slated to open next year.
The original Wembley Stadium was constructed in 1923. It hosted the British Empire Exhibition, several world cup finals, the 1985 Live Aid concert, as well as the 1948 Olympics. Controversially, it was demolished in 2003. The new Wembley Stadium opened on the same site in 2007.
Though the Olympic Stadium built for the 1994 Summer Olympics in Athens is well-maintained and still used for sporting event, other Athens venues have been abandoned, including the beach volleyball stadium, the training pools, the Taekwondo and handball arena, and the softball field.
Just 17 months after the Beijing Olympics, some Olympic venues were already overgrown and dilapidated, including the $750,000 BMX track.
It could definitely be argued that not all Olympic venues can or should be preserved. However, it seems an awful waste of time, money, and resources to invest in these facilities only to tear them down or abandon them. A greener and more economically beneficial alternative is almost always the reuse of an existing structure.
I hope London can make use of their multimillion dollar investment in the future. But at the very least, I hope that promises are kept and the facilities are not abandoned. Abandoned and neglected sites not only do not benefit communities but can be harmful. Abandoned buildings can be dangerous and cause nearby property values to plummet.