Olympic host cities are expected to marshal tremendous resources in a relatively short time to build state-of-the-art athletic facilities, new transit systems, great hotels and streamlined infrastructure. A lot is at stake. The whole world will be watching during the Games.
But these are not set pieces, to be broken down after the curtain falls. Olympic facilities stand for decades, often long after people have forgotten that once upon a time, the Games came here.
Here is what remains in some Olympic cities of the past:
|Seoul, South Korea|
Twenty years before China wowed Olympic audiences with massive-scale theatrics in Beijing in 2008, South Korea did it with the unveiling of the absolutely massive Seoul Olympic Park. It remains a permanent attraction, over 15 million square feet, that takes a minimum of three hours to tour. Permanent facilities include six stadiums, two carefully preserved historical sites, an Environmental Eco-Park and three museums.
The significant investments that brought Nagano facilities up to Olympic standards now pay off for the people who live there. One former hockey arena now holds a municipal swimming pool, while the White Ring is a mixed-use athletic facility. The story of the 1998 Winter Games is still told at the small Nagano Olympic Museum.
|Lake Placid, New York|
It's hard to believe that a small lakeside town in the wild Adirondacks could loom so large on the Olympic map -- but in fact, Lake Placid hosted two Winter Olympics, first in 1932 and again in 1980. Of the three remaining Olympic facilities, the Olympic Jumping Complex is the most eye-catching as you drive around town, with two giant, sloping ski jumps. The tallest is nearly 400 feet high. Both are still in use, and the Fourth of July Ski Jump is a hugely popular annual tradition.
British Columbia took pride in creating a welcoming and fun atmosphere for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with events spread across existing and new facilities in Vancouver. This famously green city adopted a "zero-waste policy" with strict recycling and waste-to-energy procedures.
In 2012, with the hosting duties moved over to London, people in Vancouver are ready to enjoy the spectacle. Viewing parties are planned in multiple Vancouver recreation centers as well as the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
No matter how friendly or lovely Vancouver might be, the city could never have hosted a Winter Olympics without its big-mountain neighbor, Whistler-Blackcomb. One of the most famous ski destinations in the world, Whistler hosted the alpine, Nordic and slide events for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and built magnificent facilities in Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Sliding Center. Both are not only still open but still introducing new public attractions — most recently, the Bobsleigh and Skeleton Public Ride Program.
Although the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum actually hosted two Olympics (1932 and 1984), it's known to younger generations as the home stadium of the USC Trojans. A true downtown icon, the Coliseum used to be in an asphalt no-man's-land—but now is a hub of the hippest 'hood of the 2010s.
Sydney Olympic Park is now a busy mixed-use recreation and entertainment hub for locals and tourists alike. To hearken back to the 2000 Games, visitors can ride bikes around the Olympic Circuit, swim in "the pool of champions" or — everyone's favorite — splash around in the Cauldron, which was the majestic emblem of the 2000 games and now is a popular sunny-day water attraction. There are endless other things to do, from outdoor movies to rugby games to Disney on Ice performances.
Surrounded by downtown Atlanta's mega-capacity landmarks like CNN Center and the World of Coca-Cola, the 1996 Summer Games facilities are a part of the bustling cityscape. At the Atlanta History Center, visitors can walk on the basketball court that was used for men's and women's competitions, and view the largest collection of Olympic torches in the country. Centennial Olympic Park is a popular meeting spot, with its unmistakable Fountain of Rings. But the most famous remaining facility, Centennial Olympic Stadium, now has a new name and purpose: Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.
Most people think of Montreal as a cold-weather destination, but in 1976, the French-Canadian city hosted the Summer Olympics — and commissioned architect Roger Taillibert to build a stunner of a stadium, crowned by the tallest inclined tower in the world. Today, part of the Olympic Park is the Biodome nature/science park, while the stadium itself is a large sports center for athletics training and community use. The iconic Montreal Tower is a tourist attraction in itself, offering great photo ops from the top.
|Squaw Valley, California|
Locals who are old enough to remember chuckle about how completely undeveloped Lake Tahoe was when Squaw Valley decided to bid for the 1960 Winter Olympics. The mountain had only one chairlift, and lodging for 50 people. The 1960 Games catapulted Squaw Valley into the international spotlight and put the entire region on the map. More than 50 years later, Squaw is investing $50 million in capital improvements in the resort, and in conjunction with other area resorts, considering a 2026 Olympic bid.