Olympics Venues Don’t Pay Off In Long Run

With every Olympics comes the promise of huge, state of the art, spectacular sports venues for the event. Host nations want to put their best foot forward for the athletes, and they say the expense is justified by the benefits to the community long after the event is over — finally, people will have amazing arenas, pools, rinks and more for training, competing and enjoying sports. Plus, the local economy will experience a resurgence. But what really happens to those venues, and are they really worth it? Evidence suggests that Olympics venues routinely fall into disrepair, becoming hazardous piles that need to be torn down and cleared, sometimes within just a few years of the Games.

So much for benefiting the community.

In Greece, it’s estimated that 21 of 22 purpose-built venues have fallen into such disrepair that they can’t be used, in a nation struggling with massive debt and social unrest. After the Sarajevo Games, the podium turned into a site for public executions; it’s now a grim testimony to a history of war and misery. Venues from Beijing’s Summer Games are equally damaged, with some falling apart already thanks to hasty construction. Bearing decorations of graffiti and trailing snags of building materials, they’re hazard zones, not sports venues. Meanwhile, the Olympic Village from Torino (2006) is barred off from the public with heavy-duty fencing, an indication of the lifelessness inside.

Even as far back as 1960, Olympic venues were being abandoned and torn up almost as soon as the events were over. It’s bad enough that cities spend billions on preparing for the Games and building up structures for it, sometimes at the cost of existing homes, but it’s shocking to see how many Olympic venues have been tossed aside once they’ve served their purpose. Stadiums, housing, and other areas shouldn’t be considered disposable, considering how much goes into them.

Economists have looked into the claim that hosting the Olympics brings about positive economic changes for host cities, and they’ve found that it simply isn’t true. In blind comparisons of cities that are more or less similar in terms of situation, population, and other factors, they found no notable difference between Olympic hosts and cities that hadn’t hosted the Games. Their research also found that cities often find themselves stuck with white elephants if they aren’t careful about their post-Games planning: what do you do with stadiums, housing, tracks, and other venues built to contain far more fans than you’ll ever accommodate on an ordinary day? What about sports that aren’t played much in a host nation, and therefore won’t attract players and viewers?

These are important questions for Olympics organizers, who need to be accountable to citizens of host nations. In the process of planning for an important international event like the Olympics, they also need to think about how to make the event benefit people long after visitors have gone — if it’s even possible to do so. While economists are quick to note that they don’t want to dissuade countries from hosting the Olympics, they caution that IOC-spurred competition has perhaps created an unhealthy economic and social climate as cities vie to outdo each other during the bidding and hosting process. Might it be time to scale back the Olympics to a more reasonable level?

Photo credit: kylebaker.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Anna M.
Anna M4 years ago

it's indeed very sad to see all these venues in Athens getting useless because the governments didn't have the will to actually make something out of them.. so stupid! but it's even sadder that the real meaning of the olympics is forgotten.. the ancients were much more smarter than we are today!!!

Paul B.
Paul B4 years ago

Kind of reminds of Liberal policy of big government spending.... the paybacks never materialize.

Nancy Crouse
Nancy Crouse4 years ago

These venues should now go forward using at least 50% green technology and the Olympic Village should be constructed and planned as social housing mixed with affordable housing providing affordable for those of us whom have fallen slightly behind because of the financial times we have experienced in the last few years.
These venues should be largely chosen (75%) for what they can give back to the community in the "running" to host the games. Enough of the gluttony, greed and cronyism! There should be some way that these committees are chosen and serve for a fixed term moving on to allow people from different countries to participate.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda!

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago

Steve D, and others, said it for me.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se4 years ago

They ALWAYS say it will pay itself because of reuse after the games and for many years, but has any, ANY Olympic ever paid off? And it get more and more expencive each time. Billions upon billions. IT IS JUST A GAME FOLKS!!!!! Don`t know any other "THING" on earth that use so much money for almost anything. Just SICK!

Michael A.
Michael A4 years ago


Marg H.
M H4 years ago

It doesn't pay off in the SHORT run either! During the games citizens movements are restricted, traffic is blocked from several areas, regular tourist visitors can't afford to travel to the destination so don't visit, and the ones who are visiting are so busy hustling between sports venues and transport vehicles they have no time to shop! It's a wash out for local businesses. Just ask the shops in London at the last games there. They bombed.

Estelle S.
Estelle S4 years ago

Stopped watching years ago....all about $$$$ -

Borg Drone
Past Member 4 years ago

We know that & so do the International Olympics Committee.