Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced today that the city will demolish Turner Field once baseball's Braves move to nearby Cobb County in 2017. Some might say that's a better fate than that of many other stadiums that were built for the Olympics only to fall into disuse and irrelevance.
While Olympic stadiums are great for giant, general purpose events like a Closing Ceremony, they aren't built to handle many sports. Turner Field, for example, was originally an oval built for the 1996 Summer Games, but had tens of thousands of seats removed and was converted into a baseball-only stadium for it to find any lasting use.
That switch added 20 years to its lifespan, but since the Braves decided to split for a shiny new publicly-funded stadium it will be as useless as the other facilities rotting in Olympic cities around the globe. Atlanta has closed the book on its Olympic story, but most host cities have struggled to figure out what to do with their expensive Olympics venues once the games end.
Beijing — The Bird's Nest
Then: Built in 2008 at a cost of $480 million.
Now: The Bird's Nest holds sporadic large events, such as a large rock concert in 2010 and the 2011 equestrian world championship. But it primarily serves as a museum piece for curious travelers, has no consistent tenants, and costs $11 million in yearly upkeep. Tourists to the concrete building can ride segways around the track Usain Bolt made famous for $20 a pop.
Athens — Olympic Stadium
Then: Originally built in 1982, Athens renovated the stadium for the 2004 Olympics.
Now: The Greek soccer team AEK Athens has regularly played in the stadium since the 2004 Olympics renovations, and another team, Panathinaikos, has played there since 2007. It remains in fairly good condition and use.
However, other venues built for the Olympics, such as a beach volleyball court, a baseball stadium, and an 8,000-seat tennis table venue have fallen into disuse, sparking public anger in the economically struggling country.
Sydney — Stadium Australia
Then: Now known as ANZ Stadium, it was built for the 2000 Olympics for $670 million. That was followed by an $80 million renovation to appropriate the stadium for rugby matches.
Now: Used several times a month for heavily-attended rugby matches, as well as various concerts and special events, ANZ Stadium is still in regular use since its renovation. One of the few examples of an in-use stadium years after the Olympics.
Barcelona — Barcelona Olympic Stadium
Then: The stadium was built all the way back in 1927 (!) for an international exposition, and after missing out on the '36 Olympics, it sat relatively dormant for 55 years. Renovations fixed up the stadium for the 1992 Olympics.
Now: It was the home for Spanish club soccer team RCD Espanyol and for NFL Europe's Barcelona Dragons. But since Espanyol's departure in 2009 and NFL Europe's closing, it sits largely unused, a free museum for visitors with favorable online reviews.
Seoul, South Korea — Jamsil Olympic Stadium
Then: Built for the 1988 games for $447 million.
Now: Used for national South Korean soccer matches and the occasional K-pop festival. Ben Johnson, the 100-meter sprint champion at those Olympics, recently returned to the stadium to promote an anti-doping cause. It's otherwise unused and has no regular tenants.
Montreal — The Big O
Then: Montreal is the worst of the worst in terms of post-Olympics stadium models. Montreal struggled to fund the 1976 Olympics, which almost bankrupted the city, and the stadium's retractable roof had issues from the start. Still, MLB's Montreal Expos played there from 1977 until 2004, despite the owners' hatred of the cavernous stadium.
Now: The stadium issues caused the Expos to leave for Washington in 2004 and it has not had a regular tenant since. Even when the team was still using it, attendance was terrible, with thousands of empty seats in the outfield.
Montreal residents commonly call it "The Big Owe," as the outstanding debts totaled $1.6 billion and were only paid off in the last 10 years. The Canadian Football League's Montreal Allouettes plays in the stadium for playoff games only. The building's roof was found to have significantly deteriorated earlier this year, jeopardizing its future. Most Montreal residents would like to see the crumbling, decidedly ugly building dispatched with.
London — Olympic Stadium
Then: Cost €486 million for the 2012 Olympics.
Now: Having seen the problems that plagued others in the the past, London planned ahead for their stadium's post-Olympics life. The Premiere League's West Ham United signed a 99-year lease to move into a renovated Olympic Stadium once 25,000 seats are removed and a new roof is built. In the meantime, the stadium has been fenced off and under surveillance since the construction began.
(Images from AP and Reuters)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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