Eug Png / Shutterstock.com
Eug Png / Shutterstock.com
While a visit to an Olympic site from the past won’t be exactly like being in South Korea, the Olympic legacy is still very much alive in former-host cities around the globe. Broaden your horizon and explore previous hosts that have managed to harness the benefits of international attention for long after the spotlight has moved elsewhere.
Host to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games and set in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid has a rich athletic history and a ton to do, regardless of the season. Visitors can stop into the Olympic Center for a look at the museum or visit the Olympic Sports Complex and take a ride with a professional on the bobsled track where history was made. If you’re looking for more adventure you’ll have no trouble finding your niche, as Lake Placid is still a top destination for fitness fanatics and outdoor enthusiasts.
Host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the big city of Vancouver had competition venues both downtown and at Whistler Mountain. The hockey arena set in the city is now home to the NHL Canucks, and the Richmond Olympic Oval is open to the public for skating, both are top spots to visit. Outside of downtown, head to Whistler to ski, board and slide where the best athletes in the world went head-to-head and try the nerve-shattering Rocket Skeleton Ride, which you pilot on your own.
Salt Lake City hosted record crowds for the Winter Olympics in 2002 and the city is still a hotspot for travelers. Visitors can skate on Olympic ice, take on an adventure course at Utah Olympic Park or watch top athletes train for the next competition. Outside of the Olympic venues, you’ll find the Great Salt Lake, Snowbird resort and nearby canyons, which are perfect settings for outdoor recreation.
You probably wonder when the capital of Finland hosted an Olympic event? It’s true, the city is often forgotten when it comes to Olympic history. But it did host the Summer Games in 1940 and 1952. It’s worth a trip nowadays for it beautiful architecture, delicious food, and, last but not least, cycling trips. Helsinki is actually one of the reasons you should visit Finland instead of Iceland.
The gorgeous resort area in the Alps has hosted the prestigious winter games twice – in 1928 and 1948. Typically to what you’d expect from a place in Switzerland during the season, the skiing conditions, and trails, were marvelous. Make sure, when you go, that you have time to explore the stunning runs on Diavolezza. There are plenty of stunning cross-country skiing opportunities available even for the faint of heart.
Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988. There were five venues and they are still used today, 30 years later. The Olympic Oval is home of the Canadian long-track speedskating team and frequently used by the public for recreational sports. Canada Olympic Park is where you’ll find the bobsled, luge and skeleton, and ski jumping teams. This is where locals go to learn to ski and snowboard. And don’t miss the Canmore Nordic Centre which held the cross-country and biathlon races.
The emblem of the historic Olympic Games of 1956, the Olympic Ice Stadium, located in the Southern Alps, was recently restored and is open to the public both in winter and summer. You can even take lessons from professional instructors. The ice rink is also used for competitions in figure skating, curling and ice-hockey. The ski town has often been called the “Queen of the Dolomites.” Ski-mountaineering, which is basically hiking and skiing, is very popular. So are winter polo and snow-kite contests.
This little town by lake Mjøsa hosted the Winter Games in 1994. The arenas are still used all the time, and they are still hosting everything from World Cups to children's ski races. Tourists have the wonderful chance to try some of the Olympic sports. See what it’s like to bobsleigh and luge track at 100 km/h? Take the 954 steps to the top of Lysgårdsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena. Ski down the pistes where top alpine skiers competed for medals.
The resort was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics. Visit the recently renovated Olympic Museum at High Camp to see newly-acquired Olympic memorabilia, authentic Team USA uniforms, 5-minute historical film, as well as a hockey stick & puck from the actual Games. Did you know that the resort was smallest place to host the Games? It now spreads across six peaks, gets more than 40 feet of snow every season, and welcomes more than a million visitors. This is also where you’ll find the country’s only funitel, which is a lift made of cable cars that brings skiers up the steep mountainside at 1,000 feet a minute.
No list of Olympic destinations would be complete without including Athens, the host of the first modern Olympic Games, held in 1896. Even today, visitors can see the venue where those Games were held – the Panathenaic Stadium. This one-of-a-kind stadium is made entirely of marble and hosts events and concerts even today. After visiting the stadium, there are other ancient architectural gems you need to visit, like the Parthenon and the Acropolis and history buffs will enjoy the many museums in the area.
In 1936 Berlin hosted arguably the most controversial Olympic Games ever, organized by Hitler and the Nazi party, which led to attempted boycotts around the world. Despite the debate, the Games were successful and Berlin remains a resilient city that’s certainly worth a visit. The Olympic stadium currently hosts major soccer games, special events and guided tours for the visiting public. And a trip to the city will afford travelers an up-close look at a tumultuous history, a thriving art scene and tons of nightlife options.
Another winter sports wonderland, Innsbruck has hosted three Olympic competitions: the Winter Games in 1964 and 1976 and the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012. Those visiting in the winter can ski and ride Olympic venues by buying a single pass. One pass provides access to nine ski areas, 90 cable cars and lifts and more terrain than you could ski in an entire winter. If you can pull yourself away from the mountain, there are other local thrills and the town itself has ample historic, architectural and culinary charms.
The city that lost the 1936 bid to Berlin was eventually able to host in 1992 and the Olympic village that was built for the event can still be seen today, although it’s now lined with bars, restaurants and apartments. Visitors can stroll this waterfront stretch, but when in Barcelona there’s plenty more to see and do. Historical and architectural landmarks like La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and the Gothic quarter are breathtaking sights that you shouldn’t miss.
China’s first opportunity to host the Olympics came in 2008 and the city took it as an opportunity to modernize and impress on a global scale. Today, travelers visiting Beijing benefit from the improvements made to infrastructure and public transportation, while still enjoying historical sites and local culture. The National Stadium, also called the Bird’s Nest, is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the country, if not the world, and the Beijing National Aquatics Center has been renovated since the Olympics to hold a water park. No trip to Beijing would be complete without a visit to the Forbidden City and The Great Wall.
This classic winter sports playground set in the Alps hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and continues to host hardcore skiers and boarders even today. The area is a winter sports mecca, complete with incredible après options, but come summer there’s still plenty to do. Challenging trails satisfy skilled hikers and mountain bikers, while adventures like paragliding send visitors into the sky.
The host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is home to 15 Olympic venues, some of which are still being used for world champion competitions. The M-Wave (speed skating arena) and The Spiral (bobsleigh and luge arena) have both been used for competition. After your visit to the venues, visit the Zenkoji Temple, a 1,400-year-old Buddhist icon or track down monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park.
London has been a must-see city long before it hosted its first Olympic Games in 1908. Spend a day following in the footsteps of the world's greatest athletes by creating unforgettable memories out in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It’s the place to be regardless of whether you're into sports, arts, adventure playgrounds, shopping or just relaxing. Nearby attractions include Westfield Stratford City, which is one of Europe's largest urban shopping centers, Hackney Wick and Fish Island, and Stratford Circus Arts Centre.
Sydney hosted the Summer Games in 2000. Many say this is when the city, and the country for that matter, got on people’s radar. It has not disappointed. The world-class venues are still used today. Go to the Olympic Stadium and watch a rugby match (this is a revered sport in Australia), watch many sports as the Blackton Olympic Park and see a concert at the SuperDome arena, now called Allphones Arena. Also, Walk the Sydney Harbor Bridge for one-of-a-kind views, see the infamous Sydney Opera House and learn to surf at Bondi Beach.