The 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics in Bosnia was a big success for the communist nation. However, once the Bosnian War began in the mid 90's, this bobsleigh and luge track took on a much darker legacy, as it was used as a strategic artillery position by Serb forces. If you look closely, you can see bullet holes in some sections. But, what's destroyed can always be rebuilt. Today, the course is currently being renovated for the 2017 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival.
The 2004 Athens Olympics have, in only ten years, become an enduring symbol of how not to host a Summer Games. The Greeks over-built on arenas for sports that would have no chance of drawing spectators after the Olympics left town, such as this 7,600-seat Kayak and Canoe Center. And, once the Greek government became embroiled in an ongoing debt crisis, there have simply been no funds (nor, frankly, any enthusiasm) to maintain these sites as they slowly crumble.
The Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground in Beijing was the site of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor's amazing gold medal-winning performance. It was designed as a temporary site to be demolished after the Games left town in 2008, but yet, six years later, it's still there, waiting for somebody to pick up a ball and play another round.
On the whole, Helsinki was a very responsible host for the Games. In fact, every single pool used in the 1952 Summer Olympics has been maintained or successfully repurposed... save for this one. But, while it doesn't look very friendly for swimming right now, I bet it would make a great gymnastics practice area. Helsinki 2024, anyone?!
Again, here we have Greece building permanent stadiums for sports with no national interest. This time, it's a 4,800-seat softball grounds. In the decade since the 2004 Summer Olympics, all the grass has died and weeds now grow in the seats. If there's an intramural league in Greece looking for somewhere to play a game, I know a great place that nobody's using.
The 1936 Summer Olympics were a contentious time, as evidenced by their informal title, "Hitler's Olympics." Since then, Germany has wanted little to do with its legacy, and has allowed the Olympic Village to become abandoned. Tours of the site are still run regularly, and the dormitory that housed Jesse Owens has been completely restored, but for the most part these buildings just sit there, a relic of a time we'd all like to forget.
Since the 1984 Winter Olympics, not one single sporting event has taken place at the Igman Olympic Jumps. Every few years, the land owner announces plans to refurbish the site and open it up to tourists, but nothing ever actually happens. So, the ski lift cars continue to sit frozen in suspended animation, as they have been for the last thirty years.
The Shunyi Whitewater Slalom Pool is considered perhaps the most challenging kayak course ever constructed. However, after the 2008 Summer Games, the Chinese government showed no interest in maintaining it.
In 2010, 300 million yuan was designated to renovate the facilities for motor racing, but when Reuters photographer David Gray visited the arena in 2012, he found that little, if anything, had actually changed.
Montreal was able to use their stunning Olympic Stadium from the 1976 Summer Games as the home field of the Montreal Expos from 1977 until the franchise moved to Washington DC in 2004. Now, the stadium still hosts the occasional concert or sporting event, but most days it sits unused. And, due to a roof in dire need of renovations, the events it does host are regularly canceled if there are forecasts of heavy rain or moderate snowfall. But hey, at least Montreal has a building that looks like a spaceship, so they have that going for them.
The München Olympiastadion S-Bahn stop was constructed right next to the Munich Olympic Stadium to provide easier public access to the 1972 Summer Games. It remained in use until 1988, but has since fallen into complete neglect and disrepair. If you're into urban exploration, though, this stop looks like heaven.
The history of this medal podium is incredibly disturbing. It's where Finnish ski jumper Matti Nykänen stood to receive his gold medal in 1984, and it's also where military executions took place during the Siege of Sarajevo. Photos from 1996 show the podium littered with bullet holes. But, rather than demolish it, the Bosnian government has decided to restore the podium to its former glory, and hikers now take photos atop its steps.
Can we all agree building a 9,600-seat beach volleyball arena is probably not the best investment in the world? For two weeks in 2004, the Faliro Olympic Beach Volleyball Centre facility was considered a massive success. Since then, it's been a national embarrassment, as it's slowly become overgrown with desert plants. It will likely never be used again.
This gorgeous icon of the 2008 Summer Olympics cost the government of China $428 million to build. Today, it's a tourist attraction, but seldom hosts any events aside from a soccer match here and there. Even its architect now says that he regrets working on it. But perhaps we haven't seen the last of the Beijing National Stadium, because if the city's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics is successful, you'd better believe they'll be bringing this old bird back into the sunlight.
The Olympics in 1924 were much more sensible than they are today. In Paris, this one stadium hosted not only the track and field events, but also gymnastics, rugby, tennis, cycling... the list goes on an on. And as a bonus fact, the film Chariots of Fire was inspired by the 100 m and 400 m races that took place in front of these very seats.
Today, while some sections of the stadium are still used for rugby matches, the facility itself is not in good shape, and most areas are falling apart.
Switzerland hosted the Winter Olympics in St. Moritz in both 1928 and again in 1948. The Olympiaschanze Ski Jump continued to have a life for decades after, as ski bums and competitive jumpers flocked to the Swiss Alps to get their powder on. In 2006, though, the jumps were deemed too expensive to repair, and they now sit alone in the snow.
While London's Olympic Stadium looks pretty sad and abandoned right now, that's actually not the case. In 2012, London hosted the Olympics the right way, with plans for the facilities after the Games left. While not a single event has been held inside since 2012, renovations to reduce the seating capacity are underway, and later this summer the new 60,000-seat stadium will host four matches in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
So, as London proved, the modern Olympics don't have to leave your city in economic shambles. You just need to be smart and plan ahead.