The Olympic Legacy

In the build-up to the Olympics right here in London there have already been squabbles between football clubs to see who will get to use the Olympic Stadium after the Games are over, with Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham and Lleyton Orient all in the mix. But this is a far cry from some of the former Stadiums and Parks created for two weeks in the world’s eye, destined to be forgotten forever after.

So, years after the medals have all been won, the athletes have packed up and moved on, and even the sponsors have left, what has happened to some of the Olympic legacies?

Beijing 2008

Image by Albert K Law

From the astonishing spectacle of the Opening Ceremony to the architectural splendour of the Birds Nest stadium and the Water Cube, the Games led the way for China to become a tour-de-force on the world stage. But behind the politics and the propaganda, as well as behind the curtain of smog which has returned with a vengeance, there’s not all that much happening here anymore. Certainly the Olympics have been a boost to tourism in Beijing itself but the Bird’s Nest is empty apart from the odd event here and there, even the local football team shunned it, and the Water Cube is suffering multiple personality disorder – is it a ballet venue or a light show or is it now a water park?

Athens 2004

Image by Antonis Lamnatos

In a return to where the Olympics all started, the Athens Games were elegant and stately with olive wreaths adorning winners’ heads on the podiums. This somewhat covered up the pre-games shambles with stories in the run-up being all about unfinished stadiums, bankruptcy and logistical issues. And it seems that the vast sums of money that the Greek government spent have certainly left their mark, believed to be part of the reason for the country’s dire financial problems at present. To add insult to injury, 21 of the 22 stadiums used for the games are today empty.

Sydney 2000

Image by Simon_sees

A jubilant affair, the Sydney Games were like the Aussies, friendly, sunny and competitive! Amid more financial problems before the games, plans for the Olympic Park were somewhat overlooked, and it lay all but abandoned with only the occasional sightseer for company. But in 2005 it blossomed into a brand new suburb of the city complete with up to 5000 events a year back at the complex which now has more hotels and conference facilities. Expect anything from music festivals, to swimming and the Royal Easter Show. The main arena is vying to be the second most profitable in the world after New York’s Madison Square Gardens.

Atlanta 1996

Image by Iquo E

Atlanta always seemed an odd choice for such a huge event – sure it’s the home of Coca Cola, but when the whole world showed up on their doorstep they really weren’t ready. The transport infrastructure completely collapsed, with tales of bus drivers abandoning their vehicles, and extraordinarily long waits to clear security. Yet behind this lies a success story. The first games to be totally funded by sponsorship, this meant that there were no debts at all after the party was over. The stadium was designed with the Atlanta Braves baseball team in mind, other venues have been similarly repurposed and the athletes’ village is now student halls. The whole project regenerated a crumbling part of the city and today is still bustling with life.

Barcelona 1992

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The shots of the high diving with Barcelona in the background are one of my most memorable Olympics moments, and it seems that the Games were similarly inspiring to a whole host of Spanish youngsters. Today, the legacy of the event seems to have been spurring on the youth to achieve sporting greatness – and they are reaping the rewards with Spain winning the world cup, Rafa Nadal imposing in the tennis and Carlos Sastre shining in the Tour de France in 2008, inspiring yet more to follow the same path. They have done this by turning many of the arenas into some of the best coaching and sporting facilities in the world – all except the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic which stands almost untouched today.

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