When the Olympic Cheering Stops

The 2018 Winter Olympics are under way in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Glistening new venues greet the athletes, adoring crowds and gaggles of world media.

After the medals have been awarded and the athletes have all gone home until the next games, host cities are left with massive leftover stadiums and venues. It’s often hard to find a use for the facilities – stadiums, pools and courses.

Sometimes cities are able to successfully repurpose parts of their Olympic set-ups, but often these giant investments are razed or abandoned.

Sarajevo, Yugoslavia hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics less than a decade before the Bosnian War. The city was under siege, and though it has largely recovered in the years since the war ended, many Olympic sites have been left to the elements. Kosovo Stadium, where the opening ceremony was held, belongs to the dogs now. The bobsled course on Mount Trebevic is totally overgrown and covered in graffiti. Today Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yugoslavia no longer exists.

Atlanta, Georgia, USA hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics were held. After the games, they demolished the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where the Braves had played since 1966. The team moved to the newly built Centennial Olympic Stadium, which is now known as Turner Field. Centennial Olympic Park, the site of the infamous bombing that marred the ’96 games, is still in use today. The Fountain of Rings is a popular place for people to cool down and splash around.

Athens, Greece went almost $15 billion over its planned budget of $1.6 billion for the 2004 Summer Olympics. The Greek government had to pay for everything, and, sadly, there just wasn’t any use for most of the buildings, stadiums and courses after the games. The pool is full of fetid water and starting to fall apart. Nobody is playing baseball in Athens. The beach volleyball court is being consumed by weeds. These huge, abandoned investments seem especially painful in light of Greece’s ongoing financial crisis.

Beijing, China’s National Stadium was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Today it often has a hard time finding events that come close to filling its 80,000 seats. The kayaking facility isn’t getting much use. The rowing facility is largely ignored. Many venues, like the beach volleyball court, are simply closed to the public. Half of the Beijing National Aquatics Center was eventually remodeled and turned into a water park. Beijing will reuse the National Stadium for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which they’re hosting. It will be the first stadium to host both Summer and Winter Olympics and Paralympics opening ceremonies.

London, England hosted the Summer Olympics in 2012. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was fully opened to the public in 2014 after many renovations. The rings are one of the few visual cues reminding visitors about the park’s origins. The park and surrounding buildings have helped rejuvenate the city’s East End. The Olympic village, where the athletes stayed, has been turned into apartments. The Olympic Stadium was renovated, and became the new home of the West Ham United Football Club in 2016.

Sochi, Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014. Sochi is Russia’s largest resort city. The 2014 Winter Olympics were the most expensive games in history, costing the Russian government $50 billion. The Fisht Stadium was originally a dome, but was converted to an open-air stadium for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil played host to the last Summer Olympics in 2016. In less than two years, venues like the aquatics stadium have become ghost towns. Maracana Stadium was renovated for the Olympics, but abandoned soon after. Vandals stole seats and TVs. Parts of the Olympic complex have become a health hazard after their destruction, like the Rio Media Center. The site remained untouched for months. Six months after the closing ceremony, trash from the games was still visible.