< Go to Homepage

Here’s What Olympic Venues Look Like After the Games End

Photography By
Seats are pictured at the disused Olympic hockey stadium in Athens on June 11, 2012. (Angelos Tzortinis/AFP/GettyImages)
Seats are pictured at the disused Olympic hockey stadium in Athens on June 11, 2012. (Angelos Tzortinis/AFP/GettyImages)

 

For cities, hosting the Olympics is the financial equivalent of winning a gold medal, at least at first. Each bid comes with an influx of money–from the IOC deals with blue-chip companies like Coca-Cola and the flood of tourism that the Olympics bring. But after the closing ceremonies many of the venues–a majority of which are constructed specifically for the games–are abandoned, left to crumble into decay.

Abandonment doesn’t always occur. A few venues, like Beijing’s celebrated Bird’s Nest with its Ai Weiwei design, are used infrequently for concerts and athletic competitions. Sometimes the venues are repurposed entirely. Such is currently the case in Athens. In 2004, the Greek capital hosted the Summer Olympics. Today, it hosts an entirely different group: migrants. Athens is home to 10,000 refugees, many of them temporarily housed in former Olympic venues. For these migrants, Athen’s 2004 slogan “Welcome Home” has an entirely different connotation.

General view of the Olympic Baseball Stadium at the Helliniko Olympic complex in Athens, Greece on July 31, 2014. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
General view of the Olympic Baseball Stadium at the Helliniko Olympic complex in Athens, Greece on July 31, 2014. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A family walks in the former Helliniko Olympic complex used as refugee camp for mainly Afghani refugees on May 10, 2016 in Athens southern suburb. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)
A family walks in the former Helliniko Olympic complex used as refugee camp for mainly Afghani refugees on May 10, 2016 in Athens southern suburb. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Again, most are simply abandoned. In the end, their remains serve as a decaying monument to the glory of the Olympic games and, for many cities, the failed promise of economic renewal. It makes the images of their current state both fascinating and deeply depressing. See more photos below.

A derelict street of former Royal Air Force personnel housing is seen at RAF Uxbridge in north London April 27, 2012. Completely shut down since 2010, the huge old military base housed 2,000 athletes during the 1948 Olympics, in tandem with sites at Richmond Park and student accommodation in Willesden in west London. For the 2012 Olympics, there will be a bespoke athletes village at the Olympic Park site. Picture taken April 27, 2012. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS MILITARY) ATTENTION EDITORS PICTURE 14 OF 32 FOR PACKAGE 'LONDON 1948 - OLYMPIC LEGACY' - RTR31WYY
A derelict street of former Royal Air Force personnel housing is seen at RAF Uxbridge in north London April 27, 2012. Completely shut down since 2010, the huge old military base housed 2,000 athletes during the 1948 Olympics, in tandem with sites at Richmond Park and student accommodations in Willesden in west London. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
The word "Dream" can be seen above the deserted and unmaintained former course for the kayaking competition of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, located on the outskirts of Beijing March 27, 2012. The gigantic infrastructures built for the Beijing Olympics, namely the "Bird's Nest", and the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the "Water Cube", are now used for cultural and sports events, reminding the world of the flare that blazed during the summer of 2008. However, some other Beijing Olympic venues, such as the rowing and kayaking centre, baseball arena and BMX track, have been left either deserted or been completely demolished. Picture taken March 27, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS) - RTR30INS
The word “Dream” can be seen above the deserted and unmaintained former course for the kayaking competition of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, located on the outskirts of Beijing March 27, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray)
This photo taken on July 26, 2016 shows Fu Niu Lele, the mascot for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, lying amongst trees behind an abandoned, never-completed mall in Beijing. Photographed weeks before the 2016 Olympics open in Rio, the fallen mascots are a reminder of the high costs of hosting the event. Their derelict state reflects the challenges that China has faced in finding new uses for its Olympic investments, with many venues falling into disrepair and some construction projects left incomplete. / AFP / GREG BAKER / TO GO WITH STORY Oly-2016-Rio-China-mascots-offbeat (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on July 26, 2016 shows Fu Niu Lele, the mascot for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, lying amongst trees behind an abandoned, never-completed mall in Beijing. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on July 26, 2016 shows Nini (L) and Yingying, two of the five mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, lying among trees behind an abandoned, never-completed mall in Beijing. Photographed weeks before the 2016 Olympics open in Rio, the fallen mascots are a reminder of the high costs of hosting the event. Their derelict state reflects the challenges that China has faced in finding new uses for its Olympic investments, with many venues falling into disrepair and some construction projects left incomplete. / AFP / GREG BAKER / TO GO WITH STORY Oly-2016-Rio-China-mascots-offbeat (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on July 26, 2016 shows Nini (L) and Yingying, two of the five mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, lying among trees behind an abandoned, never-completed mall in Beijing. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
The 2008 Beijing Olympics venue for the beach volleyball competition lies deserted and unmaintained in central Beijing April 2, 2012. The gigantic infrastructures built for the Beijing Olympics, namely the National Stadium, better known as the "Bird's Nest", and the National Aquatics Center, better known as the "Water Cube", are now used for cultural and sports events, reminding the world of the flare that blazed during the summer of 2008. However, some other Beijing Olympic venues, such as the rowing and kayaking centre, baseball arena and BMX track, have been left either deserted or been completely demolished. Picture taken April 2, 2012. ATTENTION EDITORS - 14 of 21 PICTURES FOR PACKAGE 'BEIJING'S DESERTED OLYMPIC SITES' REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR30IMH
The 2008 Beijing Olympics venue for the beach volleyball competition lies deserted and unmaintained in central Beijing April 2, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray)
Garbage floats in a deserted swimming pool at the Olympic Village in Thrakomakedones, north of Athens July 25, 2014. Ten years after Greece hosted the world's greatest sporting extravaganza, many of its once-gleaming Olympic venues have been abandoned while others are used occasionally for non-sporting events such as conferences and weddings. For many Greeks who swelled with pride at the time, the Olympics are now a source of anger as the country struggles through a six-year depression, record unemployment, homelessness and poverty. Just days before the anniversary of the Aug. 13-29 Games in 2004, many question how Greece, among the smallest countries to ever host the Games, has benefited from the multi-billion dollar event. Picture taken July 25, 2014. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (GREECE - Tags: SOCIETY SPORT POLITICS BUSINESS) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 21 OF 33 FOR WIDER IMAGE PACKAGE 'TEN YEARS ON - ATHENS' FADING OLYMPIC STADIUMS' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'BEHRAKIS KARAHALIS' - RTR41JQL
Garbage floats in a deserted swimming pool at the Olympic Village in Thrakomakedones, north of Athens July 25, 2014. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis)
General view of the Beach Volleyball Olympic Stadium at Faliro Olympic Complex in Athens, Greece on July 31, 2014. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
General view of the Beach Volleyball Olympic Stadium at Faliro Olympic Complex in Athens, Greece on July 31, 2014. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 31: General view of the Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Center at the Helliniko Olympic complex in Athens, Greece on July 31, 2014. Ten years ago the XXVIII Olympiad was held in Athens from the 13th - 29th August with the motto "Welcome Home". The cost of hosting the games was estimated to be approx 9 billion euros with the majority of sporting venues built specifically for the games. Due to Greece's economic frailties post Olympic Games there has been no further investment and the majority of the newly constructed stadiums now lie abandoned. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
General view of the Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Center at the Helliniko Olympic complex in Athens, Greece on July 31, 2014. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH STORY BY RUSMIR SMAJILHODZIC - A picture taken on February 5, 2014 shows the partialy rebuilt winners podium of Sarajevo's abandoned ski jumping venue at Mt. Igman near Sarajevo. Built and used as an Olympic venue during Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympic Games, the ramps were heavily damaged during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. They were never rebuilt and it's large concrete structure remains standing as a memento of past. AFP PHOTO ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP / ELVIS BARUKCIC (Photo credit should read ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on February 5, 2014 shows the partialy rebuilt winners podium of Sarajevo’s abandoned ski jumping venue at Mt. Igman near Sarajevo. Built and used as an Olympic venue during Sarajevo’s 1984 Winter Olympic Games, the ramps were heavily damaged during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. They were never rebuilt and its large concrete structure remains standing as a memento of the past. (Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of the disused ski jump from the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics shrouded in mist on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo September 19, 2013. Abandoned and left to crumble into oblivion, most of the 1984 Winter Olympic venues in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo have been reduced to rubble by neglect as much as the 1990s conflict that tore apart the former Yugoslavia. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic)
A general view of the disused ski jump from the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics shrouded in mist on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo September 19, 2013. Abandoned and left to crumble into oblivion, most of the 1984 Winter Olympic venues in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo have been reduced to rubble by neglect as well as the 1990s conflict that tore apart the former Yugoslavia. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic)
TO GO WITH STORY BY RUSMIR SMAJILHODZIC - A picture taken on February 5, 2014 shows Sarajevo's abandoned Sarajevo's bob sleigh track near Sarajevo. Built and used as an Olympic venue during Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympic Games, the track was heavily damaged during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. It was never rebuilt and it's large concrete fragments remain standing as a memento of past and training ground for young generations of graffiti artists. AFP PHOTO ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP / ELVIS BARUKCIC (Photo credit should read ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Built and used as an Olympic venue during Sarajevo’s 1984 Winter Olympic Games, the bobsled track was heavily damaged during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. It was never rebuilt and its large concrete fragments remain standing as a memento of the past and a training ground for young generations of graffiti artists. (Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images)
A dog walks past the Olympic snowflake logo on the wall of the Kosevo stadium, the venue of the opening ceremony for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo September 19, 2013. Abandoned and left to crumble into oblivion, most of the 1984 Winter Olympic venues in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo have been reduced to rubble by neglect as much as the 1990s conflict that tore apart the former Yugoslavia. The bobsleigh and luge track at Mount Trebevic, the Mount Igman ski jumping course and accompanying objects are now decomposing into obscurity. The bobsleigh and luge track, which was also used for World Cup competitions after the Olympics, became a Bosnian-Serb artillery stronghold during the war and is nowadays a target of frequent vandalism. The clock is now ticking towards the 2014 Winter Olympics, with October 29 marking 100 days to the opening of the Games in the Russian city of Sochi. Picture taken on September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: SOCIETY SPORT OLYMPICS ANIMALS BUSINESS LOGO) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 05 OF 23 FOR PACKAGE 'SARAJEVO'S WINTER OLYMPIC LEGACY'. TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'DADO IGMAN' - RTX14SC0
A dog walks past the Olympic snowflake logo on the wall of the Kosevo stadium, the venue of the opening ceremony for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, September 19, 2013. (Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images)
Downhill bikers Kemal Mulic (C), Tarik Hadzic (L) and Kamer Kolar train on the disused bobsled track from the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics on Trebevic mountain near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 8, 2015. Abandoned and left to crumble into oblivion, most of the 1984 Winter Olympic venues in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo have been reduced to rubble by neglect as much as the 1990s conflict that tore apart the former Yugoslavia. The bobsled and luge track at Mount Trebevic, the Mount Igman ski jumping course and accompanying infrastructure are now decomposing into obscurity. The bobsled and luge track, which was also used for World Cup competitions after the Olympics, became a Bosnian-Serb artillery stronghold during the war and is nowadays a target of frequent vandalism. Picture taken August 8. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1NQ1L
Downhill bikers Kemal Mulic (C), Tarik Hadzic (L) and Kamer Kolar train on the disused bobsled track from the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics on Trebevic mountain near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 8, 2015. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic)
TURIN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 20: The ex olympic village built for the athletes of the Olympic Winter games is now abandoned on September 20, 2010 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Albert/Getty Images)
The ex-Olympic village built for the athletes of the Olympic Winter games is now abandoned on September 20, 2010 in Turin, Italy. (Alessandro Albert/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Germany - Brandenburg - Elstal: Deserted houses for the athletes in the former Olympic Village (Olympic Games 1936 in Berlin). Hindenburghaus (Photo by Montag/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Deserted houses for the athletes in the former Olympic Village near Berlin for the 1936 Games (Montag/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Germany - Brandenburg - Elstal: Deserted houses for the athletes in the former Olympic Village (Olympic Games 1936 in Berlin). (Photo by Ritter/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Deserted houses for the athletes in the former Olympic Village near Berlin for the 1936 Games (Ritter/ullstein bild via Getty Images)