Are the Olympic games killing their host cities?
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 15:08
This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend five weeks studying in the fantastic city of London. As luck would have it, I even got to spend the first week and a half of the Olympics in the city. The atmosphere in London during the games was unlike anything I have experienced before.
Though hosting the Olympics was seen by most Britans as a great honor, and an unmatched opportunity to show off the best of Britannia to the world, there was a fair amount of controversy and grumbling as well. The original bid for the cost of the London games was £2.4 billion, but by the time the games were over, the final cost soared to nearly £9.3 billion.
This enormous sum came from both private and public sources. The cost of putting on the games themselves was shouldered largely by corporate sponsors. However, the cost of building the Olympic park and re-developing the East End was funded with public tax money. As a result, many Londoners looked dubiously upon such frivolous spending, questioning what good it would do for London outside of the short two-week event.
This undertone of malcontent was not helped by the fates of the most recent Olympic host cities. Beijing has had enormous trouble finding uses for its Olympic venues – the famous ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium is currently being used as a Segway obstacle course – and Athens, the site of the 2004 Olympic games, has seen its Olympic park to fall into complete ruin - images of it’s venues conjure up thoughts of post-apocalyptic movies.
When London won the bid for the 2012 Olympic games, a black cloud of doubt followed not far behind. London, however, learned from its last two predecessors. Its spending was only a fraction of Beijing’s, and its planning was far more integrated into the existing city than Athens. Many Olympic venues in London had pre-determined uses for the post-Olympic city.
Unlike Athens and Beijing, London already had a multitude of existing venues available for usage: the O2 for gymnastics, Wembley Stadium for football and Wimbledon for Tennis. Furthermore, all constructed venues outside of the Olympic park were made temporary, including the sand volleyball courts at Horse Guards Parade and the equestrian grounds in Greenwich.
Still, whether the Brit’s spending will pay off has yet to be seen. It will take some time – perhaps another four years – before we will be able to tell if the London model is one for future Olympic cities to build by. Until then, the current process of hosting Olympic games ought to be scrutinized.
With so much money wasted, certainly a better system could be assembled; a system in which the money invested by the people pays large dividends for them in the future. Because the world can only take so many Athens games, where a two-week event brings down the economy of an entire country.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.