The Olympic Games attracts viewers and fans from around the world to not only witness athletic greatness but to get a glimpse of a culture they might not otherwise get to view. Whether it is the ancient culture of Athens, Greece, or the rising modern metropolis of Los Angeles, California, both the summer and winter Olympics show the best of what the host city has to offer. Not only do the fans get to experience the culture of the hosts, but the Olympians observe these traditions first-hand as well. The location of the games is not only selected based on the location and climate, but the timeline presented regarding the pre-Olympic, Olympic, and post-Olympic periods. Once selected, the host region ends up spending billions of dollars on the summer or winter spectacle once everything is said and done. The post-Olympics plan is often essential in continuing the spirit of the games in the city and supporting the future of the host city or nation.
The events revolve around the Olympic village, an area often created by the host to house the Olympians and hold many prominent events. Along with the village, viewers get to see many other venues in the region that are used for other various events. There is no argument that the games are the pinnacle events that occur in the facilities. After the games are over, all events that follow are often overshadowed by the Olympics once held there. What do the host cities use the buildings for following the Olympics? Do the countries follow through with their post-Olympic plans? These questions and others are often asked by the International Olympic Committee when selecting a host, and there is always a time that one can look back and see if that was a good selection or not.
A familiar example of a successful Olympic games came in 1996 when Atlanta hosted the summer games. The Centennial Olympic Stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, was turned into a baseball park and was used for 20 seasons by the MLB’s Atlanta Braves under the name “Turner Field.” Another major stadium, the newly constructed Georgia Dome, hosted the basketball and handball finals as well as gymnastics. The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons later used it for nearly 25 seasons. Other athletic facilities include Georgia State Sports Arena, Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Omni Coliseum, Sanford Stadium, and Legion Field. Not only did events happen in Georgia, but they also poured out into facilities in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.
Atlanta saw this Olympic bid as an opportunity to receive government funding to upgrade and construct amusement facilities for the citizens of Atlanta. Their existing sports facilities were in need of repair, and with an Olympic bid, both the United States and the state of Georgia were willing to fund the upgrades necessary to give the world the best view of the US and one of its premier cities. Although most of these stadiums are out of date today, Atlanta used the Olympic facilities for decades, following through with their plan for a successful future following the games.
On the flip side of the coin, the most recent Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, provides a perfect example of a country not being ready for what was to come. The city planned to use a majority of existing stadiums, and similar to Atlanta, the city focused a portion of the money on bringing those facilities up to a place that showed the best of Brazil to the world. The new stadiums were built as a sustainability and rehabilitation project in the Barra district of Rio, and nine new venues were constructed as part of the Barra Olympic Park. The project was put together at an estimated cost of $13.1 billion (US dollars).
However, the goal of the Rio government fell through almost immediately. Shortly after the closing ceremony, the government went into a full-scale collapse. More than 200 high-ranking officers, with names including the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as well as multiple Rio officials, were investigated and arrested for money laundering. Whether it was to benefit the games or not was outside of question, but one thing was for sure: Rio would have to recover from another government collapse. Lula’s promise to his country was not only broken but was completely turned around to a place that made the country worse than before the games. The plan of the World Cup preceding the Olympics was a solid plan that no other country seemed to think of prior to Rio hosting both events. The negative showed once the games ended and everything went back to normal in Brazil, which returned its economy to its disastrous form.
How have most host cities turned the games into a profitable event for their economy, and how did they avoid the aspects of the games that ultimately destroyed Rio?
A committee votes on who hosts the games, and the results are released along with other cities that did not win the bid. When a city applies to be a host, there are some different requirements that the voters of the International Olympic Committee look at.
An exception to most of the following rules is Athens, Greece, where the Olympic games originated. If they apply to host the games, the committee might overlook some aspects to bring back some history of the original Olympic games. Any other host needs to have an economy that can withstand this event, meaning that infrastructure needs to be in place so the entire country doesn’t collapse before the games begin. There is no real money coming in outside of sponsorships, and while the games will bring profit to the market when it comes around, they usually get selected at least four years prior to the event (often more like eight years). The ideas proposed need to be innovative, whether it is the facilities or the athletes’ housing, and whether the venues are temporary or permanent, they need to be able to hold more than the average number of fans since it is a worldwide spectacle. In addition to the physical aspect of the design, the environment the region creates must pop out to the committee. The host is to provide an image of their culture to everyone globally, whether they are in-person visitors or people watching on TV. The hosts generally have to meet so many guidelines laid out by the Olympic committee, so the likeliness of a host failing at their games is closer to none.
The Olympic cities often solve all of their glaring problems before applying to be a host. The economy must be in good shape, so the numbers look good to the committee in charge of the approval. The officials in the government must be suitable for their positions, so they do not butt heads as often as regular officials do. Preferably, the committee would like the hosts to have successfully hosted an event of similar stature (i.e., World Cup, X-Games, World Championship). Finally, there must be some flare to the city for the games to be attractive to the average viewers. If the host cities focus on significant aspects of the games such as these, they will have the ability to add on other fun and unique features to the games later on. The games are often successful because the cities and governments do enough run-throughs and examinations of their work for the slip-ups to be minimal and any collapse to be evident before the big event happens.
For an Olympic host city to be successful, it doesn’t seem too difficult. Salt Lake City was able to expand its economy with the games it hosted in 2002, and in some cases, some positive aspects of the Olympics still affect the city to this day. The same stands with the Atlanta games of 1996, as the city just recently ceased operations at most of their venues more than 20 years after the Olympic Games. With Olympic games such as Barcelona, Sochi, and London being an undoubted success, it is interesting to see other hosts like Rio suffer from their games. Will the Olympic games in the future, such as Tokyo, Beijing, and others, benefit from their hosting of the games, or will the games find a way to damage these economies?