Run-down and neglected: venues after the Olympics

Kyodo News/Newscom

It all looked so beautiful in the summer of 2016 when Michael Phelps swam towards his gold medal. Not even four years later, the swimming pool and other buildings in Rio de Janeiro are abandoned, looking unused and run-down. In Rio, no one is even allowed to enter the Olympic Park anymore since it has become too dangerous. The Olympic legacy is often only some deserted stands and loose pavements.

False promises

The impoverishment of the Olympic Park is often the cause of no use, no maintenance and no money to tear it down. It is something we have also seen in other cities such as Athens, where the Olympic accommodations of 2004 look overgrown and bleak. The impact of the event does not always live up to the promises of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Dr Thomas Peeters, sports economist at Erasmus School of Economics says that predictions are often very rosy in advance. "However, accommodations are usually built especially for the Olympics even though there is no need for them at all after the Games." 

For many big football tournaments, the same applies. The luxurious air-conditioned stadiums in Qatar will rarely be full after the 2022 World Cup. Peeters previously conducted research into the legacy of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. He found that the costs absolutely do not outweigh the benefits. "But football stadiums are usually still used after tournaments. The legacy of the Olympic Games is often more distressing." 

Sustainable solutions

According to Peeters, the most sustainable and economically sensible thing to do is to hold the Summer Olympics at the same location from now on. Another option is to spread the sports over several existing locations on a continent. "The upcoming UEFA European Football Championship, which will be played in twelve countries in existing stadiums, is a nice step forward. The UEFA can do this because it already earns a lot of money from the Champions League. FIFA does not have such a lucrative tournament and is financially much more dependent on the World Cup. The same goes for the IOC: it is very unappealing to hold the Olympics in fixed places." 

By holding the Olympics in a different city every time, the IOC can exercise a lot of control. "Most of the revenue from sponsorship, ticket sales, and broadcasting rights go directly to the IOC. The IOC is able to do this because there are often enough candidate cities. The only profitable Olympic Games ever were in Los Angeles in 1984: there was only one candidate then."  

Associate professor
Erasmus School of Economics
More information

Read the entire article here, 22 January 2020 (in Dutch).