Once the gold medals are passed out and the tourists go home, the cities that host the Olympics face a problem. What do they do with the stadiums and massive investment in infrastructure? What happens to the pavillions made for millions of tourists once their trip has ended? As is with most complex problems, the answer is: it depends.
In cities like Rio de Janeiro, stadiums are already falling into disrepair. Although it has only been two years since the 2016 Games, the main sites of the games have been looted or completely abandoned. In the renown Olympic Park that was constructed for the Games, no operators have come forward seeking to take up the venues. That means four arenas built for sports, including two separate arenas, the tennis center and the velodrome, will remain empty and closed off for anyone to enter.
What this says about the legacy of the Olympics is not good. Cities that host with the intention of gaining some kind of economic gain from hosting the worldwide sports competition are faced with rising rental costs, failing infrastructure, and discontent from local residents that were evicted from their homes. For Rio’s games, around 80,000 citizens were removed for their homes in expectation of the mass amount of construction. Now, they live in worse situations.
Rio de Janeiro, however, is not the only city to have hosted the games. London used its opportunity to host the games to bring a part of their city back to life. Places like Hackney Wick, which never were developed before, now operate as the new ‘hip’ places to live and work. What makes a winning strategy? How can cities ensure that they end with London’s positive feedback loop rather than Brazil and Athen’s deserted masses of space? The United Kingdom will tell you that the answer lies in repurposing buildings and recycling locations rather than building new ones all-together. Instead of building drastically large stadiums, the answer lies in using warehouses and previously existing arenas.
When hosting, Barcelona used similar tactics to London, using the Games to rebuild its industrial sector. Placing investment in public transport and reusable spaces is where the key lies for effective post-Olympic growth. Will Tokyo do the same? What do we have to look forward to Seoul?
Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit are two photographers that attend the locations of the Games years after they finish to see what happens, and what the consequences of hosting these games are. Their project is called The Olympic City Project. Listen to their interview with NPR.
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