Date
28 March 2017
A fountain in the Olympic Village in Athens sits vandalized.. Photo: internet
A fountain in the Olympic Village in Athens sits vandalized.. Photo: internet

Olympic white elephants: What’s left after all the glory

Nearly a month after the Rio Olympics, questions remain over how Brazil pulled off the biggest sporting event on the planet.

The Games came amid political turmoil that would lead to the sacking of the county’s president even as it grappled with a numbing recession that had fuelled widespread protests against the Games.

In the end, the Rio Olympics was a success, albeit a qualified one in many people’s minds, but its legacy won’t be known for many years.

Will it end up being another Athens or another Sydney, London or Atlanta?

Sydney, London and Atlanta are the best examples of shining Olympic legacies in how they managed to make the most of the infrastructure from the venues to the Olympic village.

Most of the Olympic venues in these former host cities have passed to private hands, so are the block of buildings that used to house the athletes which now have become private estates.

But Athens, the 2004 host city, is an example of what can happen when the Olympic flame is extinguished, the athletes go home and the host nation returns to normal life – if the Olympic legacy is mismanaged or neglected.

Greece experienced an economic downturn after the Olympics, fueled by massive debt.

Greeks still live under a tight fiscal policy.

More than half of the sports facilities have been left to rot. Citizens simply have no interest in them.

A collection of photos of the iconic Olympic venues has gone viral on the internet, many of them suffering the same fate — forgotten and decayed after years of abandonment.

Greece is not alone.

China’s world famous Bird’s Nest national stadium has had no takers as a private venue.

Many of what used to be glistening, avant-garde facilities badly need upkeep.

Perhaps the most expensive and most elaborate Olympics in modern times is paying the price of neglect like Greece.

Will Tokyo be next?

Four years from now, the great Japanese city will open to thousands of the best athletes and to the rest of the world.

But it’s not going in from memory.

It has had first-hand experience organizing the Games, with its first Olympiad in 1964 — by and large a successful undertaking before, during and after the competition. 

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 10

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reports

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DY/JP/RA

The main swimming pool ie in ruins. Photo: internet


China’s world famous Bird’s Nest national stadium has had no takers as a private venue. It will be used again in the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Photo: wikimedia


The Olympic Sports Complex in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1984 Winter Olympics is perhaps the most successful case of reusing Olympic venues. It is now a graveyard. Photo: internet


The abandoned Olympic Village in Berlin from the 1936 Summer Olympics. Photo: internet


The ski jump tower in Grenoble, France from 1968 Winter Olympics is a shadow of is former self. Photo: internet


Hong Kong Economic Journal

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