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CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

Posted February 19, 2014 11:41 AM by HUSH

It's been intriguing to witness how western news agencies have been portraying Sochi these past few weeks. Admittedly, I've made my fair share of jokes about Putin, broken toilets, and unprepared infrastructure. Somewhere between the mix of hyperbole and astonishing Olympic venues lies the true Sochi, one that nearly any urbanite can relate to. It's a tale of two Sochis. (But what's one more joke, right?)

If you look closely enough, you'll see many of the same problems that plague London, Vancouver, Beijing or any other city. Social divisions, terrorist threats, homelessness, outdated utilities, and even corruption are omnipresent, and are not symptoms of some foreign social disease.

Only in the years following these Olympics will Sochi's true colors unfurl, just as in these following locations where officials let their venues crumble.

Beijing (2008 Summer Olympics)

Beijing is the most notable recent example of poor urban planning and development. It hasn't been quite long enough to determine the legacies of the London and Vancouver Olympics, but foundations in both cities are reinvesting or repurposing this infrastructure. Beijing officials admitted they were more concerned with providing the best facilities than creating reusable or sustainable structures.

See the full gallery.

What is left today is a mix of Olympics venues, most of which remain abandoned. The baseball fields lie in various states of ruin and stray dogs have staked their claim. The beach volleyball courts have been usurped by overgrowth and graffiti. Other structures are abandoned, concrete masses which will remain until finally filled in. The Bird's Nest, the famed stadium from these Olympics, is still open, but is heavily underused. It maintains a schedule of concerts, football matches, races, and other events, but it rarely draws more than 30,000-less than half of the venue's 80,000 person capacity. (Images credits: Reuters/David Gray; Huffington Post; The Guardian)

Athens (2004 Summer Olympics)

Athens's baseball and beach volleyball stadiums sit in decay, just as Bejing's. Perhaps this is a testament to these sports' limited cultural appeal, but Greece vowed to field competitive squads for generations to come by investing $11.4 billion in infrastructure, athletics venues, and various supporting structures. Some reports state that 21 of 22 new structures erected for the 2004 Olympics are now abandoned or underutilized. Its' rowing and sailing centers are now mosquito breeding grounds and urban swamps.

See the full gallery.

Greece's recent economic woes have been staggering and well documented. Many Greeks blame their recession on the massive debt accrued during these games and as a result the $500 million needed annually to maintain this infrastructure was never approved. While there have been recent efforts to turn these buildings over to the private sector, Greek bureaucracy and redevelopment have been slow. (Images credits: Business Insider; 2 Oceans Vibe; The Standard; AOL)

Sarajevo (1984 Winter Olympics)

The crumbling ruins of the 1984 Winter Olympics provide some of the most visually stunning images of abandoned venues. Yugoslavia actually did a fairly good job retaining the assets of their Olympic construction, but it was all shot to hell-literally, during the Yugoslav Wars of the early 1990s. In fact, only one venue escaped the wrath; the bobsled track became an artillery position, the men's alpine skiing center served as a tactical office, and the Zetra Ice Hall, the home of the ceremonies, figure skating and hockey, was in ruins. Some of the Olympic grounds have been reclaimed as cemeteries.

See the full gallery.

Thanks to an $11.5 million donation from the International Olympic Committee in 1997, Zetra Ice Hall was rebuilt and Sarajevo bid on hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics to show the world it had recovered. Yet most of the other venues remain dysfunctional. (Images credits: Pond Jumpers Croatia; Reuters; Iguogo; AP; Travel Blog)

1936 Summer Olympics

This was an Olympics surrounded in controversy. Many countries and ethnicities debated sending athletes to a country under Hitler's Third Reich. The USSR opposed for political reasons, and some Muslim athletes partially or outright refused to participate because of Germany's anti-Semitic policies. As the games went on, other narratives appeared: Jesse Owens' raised fist and the athletic triumph of Jewish people in Germany became Olympic legacy.

See the full gallery.

But World War II and Cold War occupations by Soviet and American forces mostly destroyed what was left of the venues. The Olympic Stadium itself became an underground bunker for Nazi officers. The Olympic Village was used as a medical station for wounded Germans, but after being overrun by Soviet forces, it became a torture and counter-intelligence center for the Red Army. Some venues remain virtually untouched after decades of war and separation.

The dormitory of Jesse Owens has been reconstructed and daily tours are given. In fact, many conservation efforts are being made to restore these Olympic venues, since they were quite marvelous and also significant to world history. Germans themselves tend to ignore these sites because of their implications with the Third Reich. (Images credits: Limitless Magazine; The Atlantic; Daily Mail; Haute Vitrine; Gawker)

It doesn't really matter where the Olympics are held, as after the games is when the real legacy is forged. If Sochi can leverage their new venues and infrastructure into viable enterprises for the city, then it's likely all the talk about poor preparations will end when the games do. Some cities, such as Vancouver and London, have a vibrant future for their Olympic venues.

But Sochi could easily become another unfortunate Russian stereotype: hastily implemented, bleak and grey, and a source of undermining debt.

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#1

Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/19/2014 7:45 PM

Sarajevo is a good possibility

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/20/2014 9:56 AM

It's my opinion that the Olympics are getting fiscally out of control.

It would be interesting to see if there is actually value of being the host of the Olympics from past hosts.

I, myself felt that the Olympics was more entertaining when we, (The United States) was sending over amateur athletes. It really seemed to me that the passion was there with the amateurs, more so then the first 'Dream Team' filled with professionals.

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/20/2014 11:27 AM

I sent you a PM. I too feel they aren't what they used to be. (Neither am I, in fact I'm not even what I used to think I was)

It seems as if the Olympic Committee has taken a page from the US Congress, they do everything except what they are supposed to do.

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/20/2014 12:51 PM

Salt Lake City might be the best case of post-Olympic management. Most of the venues are still in use and make living in this area a lot of fun. (It's an outdoor recreation playground anyway.)

We seem to be witnessing a case of defective training in speedskating, though. Our athletes might be used to racing on the fastest ice on Earth, and have forgotten how to go fast on slow ice.

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/20/2014 3:09 PM

Somehow the Lake Placid Winter Olympic facilities have been overlooked. Sine the 1980 games there the Lake Placid Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has continually up-graded or reconstructed the venues. Nearly all of those venues are being used for athlete's training purposes year round.

During the late 1990's I was fortunate enough to be working for an engineering firm that redesigned multiple venues there which were constructed, such as: the bobsled and luge track and appurtenances; the X-country trails and bridges (both Nordic and Biathlon); new Gore Mtn. ski trails and snowmaking lines; and the Gore Mtn. snowmaking upgrades that included a new pumping station adjacent to the Hudson River in North Creek and it's welded steel pipe transmission line.

Money well spent IMO....

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/20/2014 3:16 PM

Was it in Lake Placid, that the Olympians were house in a newly constructed prison?

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/20/2014 9:21 PM

Although it's been 34 years since those games and my mind may be a bit on the fuzzy side, but yes, I do believe that you are correct.

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Re: CR4 Olympics Coverage: What Happens to Sochi After the Olympics?

02/21/2014 8:00 AM

What I recall of that, its that the eastern block country's that that was just horbible to of the Olympians staying in a low security prison........... until the feed back after the athlete's got there.

The could not believe it was an actual prison.

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