What Happens to Old Olympic Venues After the Games?

When the International Olympic Committee selects a host for the upcoming Olympic games, it puts a lot of pressure on the chosen city. With this comes the need for the best venues to host sporting events and impress the world. But what happens to these Olympic venues after the games conclude? 

How much does an Olympic venue cost? 

There is no single answer to this question, but the best estimate is a lot. Olympic venues are an expensive yet crucial part of the process for host cities. Having adequate venues is critical to the Olympic infrastructure — even more important than the medals. If a city doesn’t have adequate venues, it won’t be ready to host the games. This means investing a lot in state-of-the-art facilities. 

A good illustration of a venue’s cost is the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Their Olympic plaza cost $100 million, including $75 million alone for the 35,000-seat stadium. It’s also a great example of the short shelf life of Olympic venues: “After being used four times in total, including at this Sunday’s closing ceremony, and next month’s Paralympics, the plan is to tear it apart,” reports Quartz.

The Olympics represent a significant economic investment — and, therefore, economic risk — by the host cities. So what happens to these costly venues once they’re no longer needed for the Olympics? Some are actually repurposed for other uses. 

Reused Olympic venues

Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park

This $75 million park was a focal point of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. It was used as a gathering place for Olympic fans during the games. After the Olympics ended, the park was shut down and renovated for public use. Used to host community events, it now serves as a public park and a monument to the games held here. 

Barcelona’s beachfront

For all the horror stories of countries falling into financial despair after hosting the Olympics, Barcelona’s 1992 Summer Olympics is an example of how to do it right. Using sand from Egypt, the country created an artificial beachfront for the games. The Olympics revitalized the city, making it one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe. 

Sydney Olympic Park 

The Sydney Olympic Park is another example of an expensive construction effort used after the games ended. Built for the 2000 Summer Olympics, this park now hosts concerts, sports, business conferences, and other events intended to bring the community together. 

While those three serve as examples of how to manage a venue post-Olympics, there are other examples of how not to do it. Many Olympic venues now sit abandoned. 

Abandoned Olympic venues 

Athens Aquatic Center

Built for the 1991 Mediterranean Games, this open-air swimming venue was also used for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Financial turmoil in Greece following those games, causing the country to essentially discard many of their Olympic venues. Today, they sit in disrepair. 

Sarajevo Olympic venues

In 1984, Sarajevo made history with its winter games. It became the first communist state to host an Olympics. Unfortunately, war tore it apart in the ensuing decade, leaving its venues abandoned. 

Rio Aquatic Center

In the leadup to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, city organizers made plans to use their many venues following the games. In at least one case, it didn’t come to fruition. The Aquatic Center built to host the swimming events is now closed.