Four Olympic stadiums with unexpected afterlives The National Aquatics Center is where Michael Phelps earned his eight gold medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Today it’s been transformed into the Happy Magic Water Cube, one of Asia’s largest waterparks. (Zhaojiankang/iStock/Creative Commons)
Four Olympic stadiums with unexpected afterlives
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Signing on to host the Olympics is a big investment—in both infrastructure and money. The 2012 and 2014 Olympics, for example, each cost upwards of $16 billion to create the various facilities needed for the games. And in many instances, those buildings are ultimately left empty afterward, costing the host city that much more in continuous maintenance and upkeep, or, alternatively, simply being left to decay into the landscape.

Berlin is a perfect example of this; the city hosted the Olympics in 1936 and afterwards, the Olympic Village was left to crumble in the surrounding wilderness. Recently, though, funding has been approved to turn the former athlete residences into new apartments, breathing new life into the 135-acre site.

The buildings that are reused usually continue to operate as originally designed – hosting sporting events. Only occasionally do host cities get more creative. Here are four locations that took a different approach, repurposing their Olympics structures for decidedly less sporty uses.

Most people entering the now remodeled 1980 Olympic Village in Lake Placid are in a lot of trouble. The complex no longer welcomes athletes but instead houses prisoners as the Federal Correctional Institution, Ray Brook. It’s not much of a surprise, though; this Olympic Village was built with a prison in mind, because the only way Lake Placid could get funding from the government for the Olympics was if they had a secondary purpose for any new buildings. Only the Federal Bureau of Prisons offered to be the second use for the Village complex. The facility originally housed about 1,800 athletes; now, it houses about 1,000 prisoners.

When the 1932 Olympics were held in Los Angeles, the Grand Olympic Auditorium hosted weightlifting, boxing and wrestling matches. The building was originally constructed in 1924, and after the Games continued to host boxing and wrestling matches, in addition to roller derbies and concerts. The building even served as the film set for parts of Rocky. The venue was so well known around Hollywood—hosting greats like Cassius Clay, Rage Against the Machine, Andre the Giant and Little Richard—that a documentary was made about it called “18th & Grand.” Today, the storied Los Angeles venue has gone a more wholesome route; it’s home to a Korean church, the Glory Church of Jesus Christ.

Built for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the National Aquatics Center (more commonly known as the Water Cube) held synchronized swimming, diving, water polo and other swimming events. Michael Phelps fans—this is where he earned his eight gold medals, and where 24 other world records were set. The building was renovated after the Olympics, and half of it is now Asia’s largest waterpark, called Happy Magic Water Cube. There are 13 waterslides, a lazy river, a wave pool and a spa. The second floor of the building has an auditorium with 17,000 seats. There’s also a theater, several restaurants and bars and a museum of Olympic history. The Olympics will be back in Beijing in 2022, and the Cube is slated for use in the curling tournaments.

In 1940, the Summer Olympics never happened. Scheduled for Tokyo, they were canceled due to the Second Sino-Japanese War. The games were then rescheduled and moved to Helsinki—only to be canceled again due to the outbreak of World War II. By the time the second plug was pulled, the Tennispalatsi, or Tennis Palace, had already been renovated for the Games. Originally constructed in 1937, the building was never meant to last as a permanent structure. It first housed a car dealership and was renovated in 1938 to add four tennis courts as the city began opening various sports venues around town. The courts were never used for Olympic tennis, but the venue did host basketball when the Games finally came to Helsinki in 1952. 

In 1957, the city bought the building at auction and let it deteriorate until 1993. Now, the Tennispalatsi holds the Helsinki City Art Museum, a movie theater and several restaurants.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Which do you think is the most interesting way that the stadiums have been repurposed?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (40)
  • NatalieH-del
    1/26/2018 - 03:47 p.m.

    After they're used for hosting famous sports events, Olympic buildings are used for other things. Some have interesting new uses. They've been used for movies, museums, restaurants, and more.

  • ZofiaT-del
    1/26/2018 - 04:27 p.m.

    This article is about how four Olympic stadiums have an unusual use as their afterlife. THe Olympic Stadium instead of being crumbled, has been turned into a residence, and the one in LA has become a Korean Church. Each of the buildings have been restored to its former glory, but with a different use.

  • AnnabelleA-del
    1/26/2018 - 04:40 p.m.

    This article was about buildings before and after they hosted the Olympics. The buildings would loose money afterwards, but often if they hadn't lost the money, they would change the purpose of the building. A good example would be the building that ended up becoming a home for prisoners after hosting the Olympics.

  • SophiaD-del1
    1/26/2018 - 05:08 p.m.

    All around the world, forgotten Olympic stadiums are left to never be used again. Nowadays though, old stadiums an be used for roller derbies, tennis courts, homes, sets for movies, theaters, and so much more. Olympic stadiums are no longer only a reminder of past games, but instead can be used for all people.

  • JohnB-del1
    1/26/2018 - 07:31 p.m.

    That they are being used in different ways and are capable of housing different things for the public to see.

  • PriscillaD-del
    1/26/2018 - 07:34 p.m.

    This article is about the different renovations made to Olympic stadiums. Some of these stadiums have been turned into apartments, theaters, restaurants, etc. For example, the Tennispalatsi holds the Helsinki City Art Museum, a movie theater and several restaurants. I think its cool to live or visit a place that used to be an Olympics arena.

  • MarianaG-del
    1/26/2018 - 09:15 p.m.

    This article was very good and was about how Olympic stadium have changed. From the one in China that is now going to be reused to the one in Japan that is now a art museum.

  • AkshayB-del
    1/27/2018 - 05:00 p.m.

    The article is about four locations that took a different approach, re-purposing their Olympics structures for decidedly less sporty uses. An example is the Olympic Village in Lake Placid was built with a prison in mind, because the only way Lake Placid could get funding from the government for the Olympics was if they had a secondary purpose for any new buildings. Buildings are ultimately left empty afterward, costing the host city that much more in continuous maintenance.

  • GregoryM-del
    1/28/2018 - 09:29 a.m.

    Four stadiums have unexpected afterlives. Most Olympic stadiums are abandoned afterwards.

  • PoojaT-del
    1/28/2018 - 03:12 p.m.

    This article is about four Olympic stadiums with unexpected afterlives. There are many ways that the stadiums have been repurposed. Signing on to host the Olympics is a big investment—in both infrastructure and money. The 2012 and 2014 Olympics, for example, each cost upwards of $16 billion to create the various facilities needed for the games. And in many instances, those buildings are ultimately left empty afterward, costing the host city that much more in continuous maintenance and upkeep, or, alternatively, simply being left to decay into the landscape. This was a very interesting article to read.

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