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Olympic Host Cities Need View to Future

It is a tradition that has its roots as far back as the ancient Greeks – the Olym­pics. Every two years, millions of spectators turn their attention to the summer or winter Olympic games and the athletes competing in them. Competitors focus years of training on their event in an attempt to claim the title “best in the world.”

The attention is so heavily set on the games and the athletes competing in them that many overlook their settings. Specifi­cally, what is going to happen to the Olym­pic host cities when the games are done? With billions of dollars invested in building brand-new Olympic parks, venues and lodg­ing, what use will these sites have when the games have moved on?

In order to have an all-around successful game, the host not only needs to be ready before the opening ceremonies, but also needs a follow-up plan for the site and its venues after the torch is passed to the next host. If planned properly, the Olympic park will have a seamless adaptability to post- Olympic uses. If the host city does not look to the future, disaster can follow in the wake of these celebrated events.

Hosting the Olympic games is no small task. Years of planning and work go into the preparation for the games. Building the are­nas and housing for competition is a costly and time-consuming project. Preparing the host city for the influx of visitors – athletes, officials, journalists and spectators – in­volves upgrades of transportation and hospi­tality services as well.

Cities such as Athens, Beijing, and cur­rent host, Sochi, were not fully prepared for the magnitude of the Olympic events and the effects of that would follow.

In Athens, host of the 2004 Summer Olympics, the Olympic Village was built in separation from the city to give the ath­letes a secluded place to rest. When trying to adapt the development for public use after the games, however, the idea backfired. The isolation from the city of Athens caused the Olympic Village to decompose into a ghetto state. Some blame the failed planning of the development for the current woeful financial state of Greece.

The same results are now being seen in Beijing, the host of the 2008 Summer Olym­pics. According to TIME Magazine, after only four years, many of the Olympic ven­ues have been deserted or are falling apart. Other facilities such as the baseball com­plex, which was intended for future use, have been demolished. Beijing received a large bill for its celebrated efforts and is re­ceiving little gain in the aftermath.

Sochi has had its share of woes with the current winter Olympics, too. Several jour­nalists have reported poor living conditions in the city. Many hotels remained unfinished even after the opening ceremony. Stacy St. Clair, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, tweeted about the problems with water in her hotel. She relayed what management had told her about not putting the water out of the faucet on her face because it contains “something dangerous.”

Streets were being paved just days before the opening ceremony. There have also been reports that not all manholes in the streets have covers on them. Stray animals have also been a problem within the city. These animals were scheduled to be caught and eu­thanized days before the games.

Only time will tell if the poor manage­ment and preparation of Sochi will lead to problems in the future similar to those of Athens and Beijing.

In the near future Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Pyeongchang, South Korea will soon be hosting the Olympics. Rio de Janeiro will be hosting the summer games in 2016 and Py­eongchang will be hosting the winter games in 2018. To avoid ending up like their poorly prepared predecessors, both Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang need to have practical use plans for the arenas and housing develop­ments for long after the games have finished.

Planning a realistic program for reuse will help avoid any negative effects that have fallen on host countries in the past. Cit­ies can look to the examples set by the cit­ies of Barcelona – host of the 1992 summer games – and London – host of the 2012 summer games. These sites were planned not only to host an impressive and suc­cessful Olympic event, but to contribute to their urban context long after the games had moved on.

Specific examples include the use of existing facilities, rather than building new venues. In London, the O2 arena was used for gymnastics, Wimbledon was used for tennis and the many soccer stadiums that dot the city were put to use. A number of stadiums were also made to be temporary. The beach volleyball venue and the dressage arena were two such sites.

Further, each stadium that had to be new­ly constructed had a planned re-use before the games even began. The main Olympic Stadium where the track and field events were held is now the home of London’s West Ham soccer team. Finally, the athlete housing in the Olympic Village will be re-purposed as low-income housing for people living in London’s East Side.

Hosting the Olympic games should be an economic opportunity and a great honor for a city. If the economic risk of hosting the games continues to rise, fewer and fewer cities are going to bid for hosting rights. As Olympic cities look into the future, they should be developing innovative new ways to incorporate the games rather than simply striving for extravagance.

Looking closer to home, a petition and website was formed to try and get the Olym­pic games to come to Minneapolis. The site and petition have acquired a substantial fol­lowing, but it does not look like the games will be hitting the Twin Cities any time soon.

According to MinnPost, former Minne­apolis mayor R.T. Rybak said that Minneap­olis wouldn’t bid for Olympics 2024 Sum­mer Olympics Games. They, instead, would like to pursue more practical and smaller events such as the Democratic National Convention and possibly the Super Bowl.

The preventative problem with hosting the Olympic games comes down to a space and financial issue. Also Minneapolis’ tran­sit system would not be effective due to its relative small size on a scale that large. Also Olympic regulations require 40,000 hotel rooms within 30 mile. Given the size of the city currently, spectators would have to go to St. Cloud or Rochester to meet the 40,000 rooms requirement.

Hopefully Rio de Janeiro and Pey­ongchang can rise to the challenge and not duplicate the mistakes of Athens and Bei­jing. The coming years will show the effects the Olympic games had on Sochi-for better or for worse.


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