When they walked into the Olympic Sports Complex, the participants at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics didn’t realize they were standing on a future graveyard. This Imgur series by viralflare depicts abandoned Olympic Stadiums that failed to be absorbed into the infrastructure of their host countries. Hauntingly beautiful, these photos of structures that represent the pinnacle of human strength may engender some understandable wanderlust.
But they bring up unnerving questions, especially considering Brazil’s recent economic recession—what happens when a country spends extravagantly on structures that may be ultimately unnecessary for its infrastructure? Who are these expenditures truly benefiting, the host nation’s population or foreigners? There’s no doubt that an Olympic win boosts country moral, but is a multi-billion-dollar hangover worth the party?
It’s not surprising that the majority of the photos in this series are from Olympic structures built in Sarajevo, Berlin, and Athens in the midst of and/or prior to pivotal economic and political unrest. While the U.S. likes to pat its own back (and there are no photos of any decrepit remnants from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in this series), even the future of the Atlanta Olympic Stadium, which was converted into the Turner Stadium for the Atlanta Braves baseball team, is up in the air. It was set to be demolished in 2017 when the team finishes their season, but Georgia State has put in a bid to purchase and convert it to a football field.
Are these structure inherently wasteful? On one level, we’ve all got those charmingly dangerous and dilapidated structures in our hometowns that hormone-fueled teenagers sneak out to for secret rendezvous and skaters use to perfect their own impressive athletic feats. Even when the government fails to make a new use, the BMX riders and graveyards prove the power of the populous to make do and transform with these monumental scraps. Yet most of these structures, particularly the pools, appear to be safety hazards at best, and when we consider that some host countries like Brazil cut spending on healthcare and education to make these events happen, it hardly seems like a legacy to leave future generations.
While the Brazilian government assures on its Brazil 2016 Olympic website that they made sufficient considerations for infrastructure, some Rio natives, particularly the disenfranchised, are skeptical that the improvements will ever reach them. Part of the concern comes from a lack of transparency regarding what was actually spent on the 2016 Olympics. While the projected budget was around $13 billion (US Dollars), it has been largely speculated that number was exceeded some time ago; however, The Oxford Olympic Study claims that the Rio Olympics only cost $4.56 billion, making it the cheapest Olympics we’ve seen since 2004.
Oxford cites China as having spent $10 billion more than Brazil, resulting in the 2008 Bird’s Nest stadium, which its soccer team is embarrassed to play in, so it sits unused, despite costing $11 million a year to maintain. Luckily for Rio, they went with their existing soccer stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies.
Now, let’s just not let that new aquatics stadium be added to the list of Olympic behemoths that have outlived their usefulness, folks.
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