Is the USA doing any better? A travel-planning site called RoadTrippers sent out a release today highlighting a few thriving venues from Squaw Valley (though it’s labeled as the “only venue in use from ’60 Winter Olympics”), the Lake Placid center that saw Sonja Henie in 1932 and the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980, the still-useful speedskating oval and Olympic Park from Salt Lake City, and the still-dancing fountains at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.
Winter Olympics are mostly about using a couple of arenas and putting up temporary stands for skiing and snowboarding events. The biggest questions are the sliding track (luge, skeleton, bobsled) and the ski jumps. Sarajevo, as seen above, has a couple of nasty leftovers, but the region had more pressing issues in the 90s. Salt Lake City is happily using its facilities. The bobsled/skeleton federation has events in Cesana (2006) and Whistler (2010) this winter. Getting into the mix in ski jumping is more difficult, with so many facilities in Europe hosting traditional stops. Whistler Olympic Park as a whole gets some use, but the Canadian ski jumpers seem to prefer Calgary, another former Olympic host.
The Summer Games can be trickier. One good reason for that: They’re huge.
The best way to save costs and minimize abandonment, of course, is to use a lot of pre-existing facilities. Atlanta got by with a lot of college gyms and pools. Some specialized facilities, like the Georgia International Horse Park and the beach volleyball venue, segued nicely into other uses. The tennis center’s fate is still in the air. As for the shooting center, Wikipedia states with no source other than common sense that it’s difficult to attract major competition when Fort Benning isn’t that far away.
Sydney 2000 changed the rules. Tons of new venues, mostly concentrated in one big park. But in sports-mad Australia, those facilities were welcomed and mostly still in use. One arena has even hosted multiple UFC cards.
Then, alas, came Athens. Greece simply couldn’t afford the Olympics, much less the upkeep afterwards. It’s no surprise to see abandoned facilities in the pictures above.
Beijing shocks me. And it shocks someone at Deadspin who calls the “ruin porn” pictures “dishonest crap.” Several of those venues were supposed to be temporary. The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube are tourist attractions near the big convention centers that housed us friendly media types and a few competitions during the Games. And I don’t know what they’re supposed to do with the canoe slalom course built in the middle of nowhere.
The picture that makes the least sense to me, though, is the beach volleyball picture. That was supposed to be a temporary facility, and it’s in a busy neighborhood. You’d think it would’ve been torn down between the twin forces of national pride and locals wanting their park back.
London also went with some temporary facilities. Others will go to local club teams — Wimbledon fans will note the irony in a basketball team leaving Milton Keynes to go to London and play in the “Copper Box.” Cycling-mad English folks will probably figure out a use for the velodrome.
You’d think the IOC would have some consideration for the expense of all these venues when it ponders the Olympic program. You’d think. But they added golf to the 2016 Games. And Rio had to start taking bids. Then they get the joy of securing a golf course. Maybe Tiger can pay for it.