What Happens after the Olympics Leave Town?

The world’s attention has been on Sochi this month, as Russia opened its doors to the world by hosting the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Now that Sochi’s Olympic flame has been extinguished, we wondered: What happens to Olympic infrastructure after the closing ceremony, once the athletes and media have packed up and returned home? Are the Olympics an opportunity for long-term infrastructure resilience for the host cities?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Since the post-Olympics experience is unique for each host city, let's look at how three recent host cities have made use of their venues.

Beijing, 2008: Abandoned venues

Birds nest under construction

Beijing's brand-new 2008 Olympic architecture has become little more than "a collection of unused sports facilities with few if any plans for reuse," writes Mark Byrnes of The Atlantic Cities. Venues for kayaking, beach volleyball, BMX, and baseball have been abandoned since 2008, while the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium is rarely used and expensive to maintain.

There was never a plan for Beijing, China’s capitol and one of the most populous cities in the world, to redevelop Olympic infrastructure into lasting city structures. “Beijing Olympics officials approached the 2008 Games as an opportunity to host the world’s biggest sporting event, not to create infrastructure of permanent importance," writes Byrnes. "Now Beijing is left with a post-Olympics landscape that better suits the tastes of ruin porn aficionados than urban development officials.”

Read more at The Atlantic Cities.

Los Angeles, 1984: No new infrastructure

Los Angeles took a different route to its Olympic infrastructure: Rather than building brand-new venues, existing facilities were repurposed and improved. (Only the velodrome and aquatics center were built specifically for the 1984 Summer Games.)

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home to the University of Southern California Trojans, hosted the opening ceremony and served as the Games’ central hub. Soccer games were held in the Rose Bowl, and tennis matches hosted on the UCLA campus. Road cyclists biked up State Route 91. And the Olympic Village, where the athletes lived, was spread across several local university campuses.

Not only do these venues remain vibrant elements of Los Angeles infrastructure  and city life today, but the ’84 Olympics are still paying dividends across the city. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Games produced $232.5 million in net revenue, a portion of which is still finding its way into the community through distributions from the LA84 Foundation.”

Read more at KCET and the Los Angeles Times.

Sydney, 2000: A new suburb

Sydney’s Olympic venues were built specifically for the 2000 Summer Games. Although the city didn’t finalize a plan for the site’s redevelopment for another five years, today Sydney Olympic Park is a growing residential suburb of Sydney.

The Olympic Village has become an opportunity for green innovation and energy resilience. Environmental sustainability was a priority of the Olympic committee, and each of the 900 townhouses and 300 modular homes were built with solar panels and water recycling facilities. According to Australia’s Property Observer, when it was built, the suburb was the largest solar-powered suburb in the world.

Sydney’s post-Olympic plan continues to expand: By 2030, developers hope that Sydney Olympic Park will have a population of 50,000 workers, students, and residents.

Read more at Property Observer and Olympic.org.

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