For 17 days, the world’s attention will be on the Russian city of Sochi for the Winter Olympics. But what happens when the games are over and the athletes leave? Some experts fear the facilities, build at great expense, will go unused and fall into decay.
In a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony fireworks explode over Fisht Olympic Stadium, one of seven brand new facilities for the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
But it’s what happens after the close of the games, that concerns Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management professor at George Washington University.
“This is the first Winter Olympic games that has an Olympic park, where all seven venues were built specifically for the Olympic games in a specific area. And I do not think that is the best model, because there is just no use for, typically, seven big venues in a circle. It’s better to spread it out across the area.”
These games are estimated to cost Russia $50 billion. As the pricetag to host an Olympics skyrockets, Delpy Neirotti says proper planning is vital - especially after the games are over.
“It’s going to be a challenge to utilize all of those facilities [after the games]," she said.
The Beijing National Stadium and National Aquatics Center were the jewels of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Today, China struggles to draw visitors and events. The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, as they were nicknamed, cost more than half a billion dollars to build.
In Greece, Athens’ Olympic park is abandoned, overrun with weeds, and closed to the public.
Even the London Olympics in 2012, which promised to revitalize the east end of the city, has had mixed results - says one man who lives nearby.
“It was like a building site while they were doing it. It was like a holiday park when it was on. And when they’re all gone, it’s like the circus has left town,” says Bob Sweeney, the CEO of DC2024, a group bidding to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Washington, D.C.
He says the London games also perfected an existing concept: temporary facilities.
“Their basketball venue was a brilliant example of steel construction, high-quality interior, wrapped in plastic, and it was immediately taken down after the games. It was about a third of the cost of building a permanent construction project for the games,” he explained.
Sweeney promised temporary facilities would be used in the Washington bid. Temporary venues and facilities that can be downsized after the games factor into many future Olympic bids.
Delpy Neirotti says that’s not the case in Sochi.
“In Sochi, the concern there is that it is a very small town, they put these seven facilities in one circle with not much else happening around them. Originally two of those facilities were going to be temporary and taken to a different location [after the games], but the plans changed,” she said.
She says she fears what will become of those facilities after the games.