What happens to the world’s Olympic venues?

Katie Gatens
01 February 2014

With the budget for Rio 2016 currently up in the air, and around £9 billion spent on London's Games in 2012, you may be wondering what becomes of the event's much-planned, well-used sporting sites. Katie Gatens looks at the legacies of five former host cities

2012 Olympics
You may not know it, but the north of the park is currently open and you can visit the playground, gym and café. When the park fully reopens in spring 2014 it will be home to two schools, 8,000 new homes, a selection of shops and a cinema amongst miles of pedestrian areas and cycle paths, not to mention the top-notch sports venues. The main stadium will be home to the football team West Ham and Boris Johnson has pledged to spend £10 million a year for the upkeep of the park to an expected 9.3 million visitors. 

2008 Olympics
The intricate and titanic 90,000-capacity Bird's Nest Stadium, built by architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and overseen by artist Ai Weiwei, was once a hive of activity but has become neglected in recent years. It cost some $480 million to build and around $11 million a year to maintain, but the main sport in the stadium today is Segway racing for tourists. For the past few winters it has been transformed into a snow and ice theme park, however, and December saw a boost as it was used for the city's World Snowboard Challenge and Freestyle Aerial World Cup Ski Championships.

2004 Olympics
Greece was keen to show they had what it took to bring the Games home to its birthplace and spent a record amount (estimated to be between £6-10 billion) in preparation. Impress they certainly did, but due to the 2008 economic crisis, the Athens games continue to be a huge debt for the country. Although the village as a whole may look like a ghost town, with most venues now abandoned, the Olympic stadium is now the home ground to AEK Athens FC and the media centre still continues to be used for football games and concerts.

1992 Olympics
The city was completely regenerated thanks to the Olympics, transforming the disused docklands to the east, building a beautiful complex on the hill of Montjuic and creating a two-mile, man-made beach. Transport links were improved and, after showcasing the beautiful setting of the games (especially the diving, with its backdrop of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia church) Barcelona saw its tourism rocket. There has also been some creative use of the Olympic village buildings, including a medical centre within the former athlete's clinic and a public library from the site's storage and service area.

1988 Olympics
The Olympics were a catalyst for huge political change in South Korea, which brought about a huge economic advance in the country. Its venues are still well used, perhaps due to the park's central location in the Songpa-gu district. Now, it is used for international competitions, with the fencing gymnasium, velodrome, tennis courts and weightlifting gymnasium all used by the public as well as athletes. In 2011, Seoul's Olympic Hall was renovated into a concert hall and the site is also home to a hotel, sculpture park and the Korea National Sports University.