Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The great touring Olympic games?

Yesterday I was tipped off to this spooky Yahoo slideshow of Beijing, four years later. It shows what's become of many of the city's Olympic venues, many of which never had any real use after the games had concluded. I'll include some of my favorite pics, but I suggest you look at the whole presentation, for the full before-and-after effect.

Track & Field (and Opening/Closing Ceremonies)
Baseball Stadium
As I mentioned briefly in my post earlier today, the maintenance costs alone on some of these facilities is often more than the municipalities can bear, to say nothing of the ongoing burdens of the construction costs (especially if debt was used). This can often leave huge scars—and often, safety concerns—in these cities once the Olympics have left town.

It is for exactly these reasons that Chicago and many other cities have proposed the idea of "disposable" stadiums for the Olympics—facilities that are intended to be torn down or immediately repurposed, with the steel beams and sheet metal and concrete and whatever else to be recycled or re-used for some other project elsewhere in the city or surrounding areas.

I say, why not go a step further? What's the purpose of constantly purchasing and building and recycling and purchasing and building and recycling in a different city every four years when the types of venues needed rarely change in any meaningful way from one games to the next? Why can't the Olympics be more like a giant concert tour (maybe like the U2 360 tour) that just rolls into town and sets up shop somewhere every four years, then packs up and heads on down the road to the next tour stop? We could have facilities that are literally built and torn down in less than a month (remember, many of these venues are pretty small undertakings, not giant stadiums like those that host the track and opening/closing ceremonies), only to be rebuilt and torn down again somewhere else—with the same materials.

No, that solution wouldn't work for all venues, but it could certainly work for a few, couldn't it? And it would have to be a whole hell of a lot more cost-effective than doing it the way we're currently doing it, right? Of course, the problem is, who's gonna pay for the equipment and the tour? The IOC? Not likely. They're perfectly happy with the way things are, and they're probably not changing anything any time soon. But with municipal budgets in this country and around the world becoming increasingly strained, the IOC may ultimately be left with no choice, as nobody has any money left to build all these venues to the specs that the Olympic powers-that-be require.

This is all probably another one of my pipe dreams, but I'm nevertheless interested to see what shapes up over the next couple of decades.


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