It’s not hard to find Internet slideshows of Olympic venues in disrepair. After brief peaks when viewers watched the planet’s best athletes, the pools, luge runs and kayak centers are abandoned to weeds, rust and graffiti.
The reasons for the declines are many: poor planning for the long term in the short-term pursuit of gaining the Games; recession; civil unrest; the fading of a sport’s popularity. Memorable host cities like Beijing (2008), Athens (2004) and Sarajevo (1984) are the starkest examples from the past 30 years, but it seems that Games from the past 25 years have learned those lessons and prepared for life after the crowds leave.
The International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Charter’s Rule 2, Article 14 states part of the IOC’s responsibility is ensuring host cities consider and maximize the legacy of their Games. Hosts have benefited from Games-related transportation infrastructure, extra telecommunications, job training as well as continued use of the facilities built for the Games.
As we look at all the North American Olympic cities since 1988, as well as the most recent Olympic site, London, we see that the future has been as much a factor as the winning bid itself. When officials from the Vancouver suburb of Richmond researched former cities and venues in preparation for construction of the 2010 Winter Games long track speedskating oval, they heard cautious tales from hosts who had trouble using venues.
“A lot of venues were frank with us and said, ‘Our mistake was we really didn’t have a solid business plan for after the Games. Our focus was more on building for the Games,’” says Richmond senior manager of corporate communications Ted Townsend. “(Richmond) built a facility that met our needs.”