As we look at the coverage of Sochi, Russia, and the fast and furious approach to completing construction for the Winter Olympic Games, it brings to mind Olympic villages of the past. When the games are awarded to a region, preparations and construction take on lives of their own, as the host cities will need Olympic villages, accommodations, multiple arenas, pools, jump areas, and more. In Sochi, they have been building a huge Olympic park with all the structures in a concentrated area. This Black Sea resort city is undergoing a major transformation. How it will manage after the fanfare of the Olympics has disappeared is yet to be seen. Some Olympic sites have been more successful than others in becoming useful facilities and have weathered the socioeconomic implications of landscape transformation. However, a large majority of former Olympic installations have become ghost towns, with deteriorating structures that are eyesores and expensive reminders of Olympic legacies. Further, exposure to the elements over time often causes the structures to fall into serious decay. The cost for maintaining these huge constructions can be excessive, and if there aren’t any buyers for the real estate, they become neglected and abandoned.

Successful transformations include turning the Olympic facilities into parks, stadiums, training facilities, malls, housing, etc. Barcelona is a good example of having the Olympics roll in, take place, and end without leaving the area in the dust. Like Barcelona, the most successful Olympics regenerate areas that had been neglected and in need of an economic boost, and leave the location with a better class of buildings and venues than they could have otherwise afforded, for the opportunity to use them with for future repurpose.

Unfortunately, not all fare as well as Barcelona did. So many Olympic sites have become shadows of what they once were transcending into Olympic ghost towns. This includes Olympic villages such as Paris (1924), Berlin (1936), Helsinki (1952), and even those as recent as Beijing (2008), Athens (2004), and Vancouver (2010).

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When countries are developing plans to host the games, they need to further design for post-Olympics. In a world that is socioeconomically conscious, such planning should become mandatory preparation for Olympic consideration.


  1. After the party: what happens when the Olympics leave town? The Independent website. August 19, 2008.
  2. Photos: an abandoned Olympic village. Pinterest website.
  3. Nazi Olympic village remains abandoned 76 years later. Huffington Post website. July 2, 2012.
  4. Then & now: 8 key historical Olympic villages & venues. Urbanist website.
  5. What happens to Olympic host cities after the games? Outside Online website. June 26, 2012.