KERRY HUBARTT: The Olympics are exciting, thrilling! Also . . . a waste of money
The cost of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which end with Sunday’s closing ceremonies, is estimated to be $13 billion, nearly twice what was projected.
The Olympics can be an economic burden on the host nation, especially the expenses of constructing venues for the games. Throughout Olympic history, once the games are over, many venues have been abandoned, decaying from disuse.
The failure of Rio de Janeiro to maintain and re-purpose its venues after the Summer Olympics just two years ago has left many of them abandoned as “white elephants,” Olympic infrastructures left unused after the games. And Rio in 2016 may have spent as much as Pyeongchang for this year’s winter games.
Remember Sochi in 2014? The winter games in that Russian city were the most expensive in history, estimated to have surpassed the $40 billion spent for Beijing in 2008 by an additional $10 billion. The venues at Sochi now sit empty. Beijing and other host cities such as Sarajevo and Athens have had venues suffer the same fate.
But the IOC has warned South Korea that this must not happen to them. As a result, the country has drawn up a post-games strategy for most of its Olympic facilities, including plans to demolish their Olympic stadium when the games are over.
Cities around the world bidding to become a host of future Olympic Games may see the investment as being worth the risk, hoping the games will increase tourism and their international recognition. And they envision the continued use of the stadiums built for the games. But many cities, understanding what has happened elsewhere, are now questioning whether it is worth the financial risk over the long term.
One of the saddest cases is Athens, where the ancient Olympics began in 776 B.C. and the modern Olympic Games originated in 1896. As Jason Ponic wrote regarding Athens on howtheyplay.com, “Imagine spending over $11 billion on an Olympic Village, using it once, and then abandoning it. Only Olympic Stadium has remained actively used. The only things that separate these modern ruins from the neighboring Parthenon are several thousand years and the collapse of the Roman Empire.”
I took a look online to see what I could find on the subject of abandoned Olympic venues and scrolled through multiple presentations of photos showing the derelict remains of Olympics past. It’s depressing to see once-magnificent facilities, from stadia to swimming pools to ski towers crumbling or rotting.
See for yourself. Following is a list of online links that include slide shows of abandoned Olympic venues around the world, including Paris 1924; Berlin, 1936; Italy 1956; France 1968; Moscow 1980; Sarajevo 1984; Athens 2004; Beijing 2008; Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016:
Kerry Hubartt is the former editor of The News-Sentinel