Take Note, Sochi: 12 Olympic Venues With Happy Second Lives

The closing ceremonies were just the beginning

When the IOC announced in September that Tokyo had won its bid to hold the 2020 Summer Olympics, analysts were quick to point out that it was the most prepared of the three finalists.

Unlike Istanbul, and more so than Madrid, Tokyo already has much of the necessary infrastructure in place—no need to spend tens of billions to overhaul transportation, for example—and it already has an Olympic stadium from its 1964 turn as host of the games. (The stadium will need an upgrade, of course.)

Click here for photos of 12 Olympic venues with happy second lives.

Perhaps this is an acknowledgement by the IOC that what happens to all those shiny new buildings after the games are over matters just as much as those two or three weeks when everybody’s paying attention.

Just look at Athens. Only nine years after Greece spent approximately $11 billion to stage the 2004 summer games, much of its once-glittering Olympic complex fell into disuse and now serves as a decaying, graffiti-covered cautionary tale.

Many of Beijing’s venues haven’t fared much better, and even the half-billion-dollar Bird’s Nest stadium that wowed the world in 2008 lies mostly empty except for tourists and the occasional sporting event or concert.[slideshow:783]

But not every venue built for brief Olympic glory has to be a debt-laden boondoggle. Many cities—even Athens—have managed to give their new or newly renovated showpieces second lives after the games leave town.

Atlanta, for example, was forward thinking when it constructed its Olympic stadium with the dimensions of a major league ballpark. (It’s now Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.) The same goes for Los Angeles which built one of the world’s great boxing venues, the Grand Olympic, during the sport’s golden era.

Future host cities would do well to study these and other examples we turned up if they want the Olympics to be more than a very costly flash in the pan.

We’re looking at you, Sochi.

Click here to see 12 Olympic venues that went on to live another day.