If you were wondering what the role of digital visualization might be on the Olympic games, look no further than the words of Sam Lubell, the writer who has been taking note of the economic impacts of Olympic architecture: “And you know, look at the proposals — they’re getting so elaborate. They’re spending millions and millions of dollars on these renderings, and soon I’m sure it’s going to be a virtual reality fly-through, and you’re going to be able to see what the Games are like. And it’s a huge part of getting the games.” And while all the upfront investment should come as no surprise to anyone, have you ever wondered what happens to those world-class Olympic stadiums after the two week hype has died down and all the athletes have gone back to their respective countries?
If you are Beijing or Athens you might be looking for a few answers yourself, as their post-event facilities have remained notoriously underutilized. However tides on this subject are turning as Rio, London, and other cities are starting to see the benefit of some of the creative forethought they put into their own Olympic stadium.
After spending millions of dollars on their facilities, Rio’s waste-deterrent solution is to plan second lives and alternative uses for the structures after the games are completed. The materials used in their handball arena for example, will be used to construct four much-needed city schools. The $38 million aquatic stadium will become community pools for all to enjoy.
London’s solution was to tap into the influx of tourism dollars, filtering them toward the areas of their city that needed them most. By locating most of their facilities on the east end of the city, an historically underserved area, they were able to share the wealth, so to speak, and bring waves of new investment to the area. The long term economic impact on the area has already been significant.
Future Olympic destinations are following suit, as Tokyo opted for Kengo Kuma’s stadium design, after scrapping Zaha Hadid’s more ambitious version. Kuma’s design will put less strain on the city’s budget and also blends in better with its urban surroundings, making it the more practical long-term choice. Similarly, Los Angeles is preparing for their 2024 Olympic games by retrofitting their Coliseum to avoid constructing an entirely new building.
The shift away from unbridled starchitecture and toward more practical concerns is certainly good news for those living in these areas, but what do lovers of over-the-top, multi-million dollar opening ceremonies think?