Regenerating neglected areas, inspiring young people to take up sport and leaving a legacy of newly built sporting and tertiary infrastructure that boosts local and national economies. With Rio 2016 underway we are taking a look back at previous Olympics to see what effects these unique mega projects really have on their host cities once the show leaves town!
Let’s start with Rio. It’s been a bumpy ride to completion with political turmoil and the threat of Zika. In terms of infrastructure, the race to complete the Olympic metro extension linking Ipanema to Barra da Tijuca was completed just 4 days before the games began and that is cutting it fine by most people’s standards. Also, the collapsed cycle track which was destined to be a major legacy project for Rio 2016, was another hammer blow. But none the less, the games have started and we’ve yet to see what the city (and country) will benefit in the long term.
We couldn’t leave the Sochi Winter Olympics out, seeing as it was THE most expensive Olympics games EVER, costing Russia $51bn. This extortionate cost is put down to oversized infrastructure at inflated prices. Russia had big plans to turn Sochi into a global resort however much of it now lies virtually empty with most visitors coming to marvel at where all the money went.
Costing $14.6bn with visions of leaving behind a fitter, healthier nation and regenerating Stratford in east London, London 2012 has fared much better in terms of infrastructure legacy. West Ham now use the stadium, London Lions basketball team use the Copper Box arena and the Aquatics Centre has received 1m visitors since it opened with 2,000 local school children taking swimming lessons there each week. Plus the former athletes’ village has been turned into affordable housing and the London anniversary games recently took place in the Olympic village.
Many say that the whopping $40bn spent on the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was more about positioning China as a global superpower rather than to create long term sporting facilities. The birds nest stadium lies empty most of the time and is described is a giant tourist attraction costing $11m a year to maintain.
The story of Athens is pretty tragic. Costing $9bn at the time, as many as 21 out of the 22 venues now lie abandoned. Despite many sites originally sought out as a tourist attraction, this novelty has long worn off.
Sydney’s Olympic village has been turned into a commercial, residential and sporting hub which continues to thrive today, creating a worthwhile legacy to the $4.7bn cost of the games.
Despite all the glitz, glamour and publicity that comes with hosting the Olympics, it can distract from other long term plans for a city. Boston and Hamburg have both withdrawn their bid to host 2024 Olympics for this exact reason. What is clear is that a legacy masterplan is a fundamental component of any Olympic bid to ensure the money spent and work carried out is maximised for future generations.
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