What happens to Olympic facilities after the games are over?

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The truth is, it's basically a crapshoot. Some Olympic parks become ruins, while others are reborn. Perhaps the most depressing example of the former is Athens, the birthplace of the Olympics. Of the 22 venues built for the 2004 games, only the badminton stadium, transformed into a theater, remains open. The other 21 venues have fallen into disrepair and have to be watched by security guards to prevent vandalism.

Other former Olympic host cities have fared better with the venues and infrastructure they built.

The area around Sydney Olympic Park, the site of the 2000 Summer Games, was intended to undergo an urban renewal project before Sydney won the bid for hosting, and since then many of the original development plans have been carried out on the site. A mix of commercial and residential construction has been completed and more is planned, including office buildings, a school, hotels and apartment buildings. The Olympic venues themselves host some 1,800 events annually, including the MTV Australia Awards, Australian Rugby League games and the Big Day Out music festival.

Centennial Olympic Park, the site of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, has similarly found a variety of uses and spurred development in the surrounding area. The park is the site of the On the Bricks summer concert series and Atlanta's Independence Day concert and fireworks display. Recent development close to the park includes the World of Coca-Cola museum and the Georgia Aquarium.

While that's all encouraging, does the continuing use of the facilities actually do any good for the host cities? According to the researchers at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, it does. The university's Technical Assistance Center released an economic impact statement in 2006 that showed the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) in Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Winter Games, generated more than $356 million in revenue across New York state in 2004-05. Some $310 million of that came from spending by tourists who visit Lake Placid to ski, snowboard, bobsled, etc. in the Olympic venues.

Not all of Lake Placid's former Olympic park is open to tourists, though. In the mid 70's, Camp Adirondack opened on the old site of New York's first state-operated tuberculosis sanatorium. The prison camp was home to a program where inmates performed various jobs for the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, from constructing campsites to maintaining buoys on the lake. When Lake Placid was chosen to host the 1980 Games, the inmates constructed the Olympic ski trails. Once the games began, they were relocated to other prisons while the camp facilities housed Olympic staff and two hundred acres of camp land were used for the construction of athlete housing. After the games were over, Camp Adirondack became Adirondack Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison, and the former athlete dorms became the site of the Federal Correctional Institution, Ray Brook.

This question was asked by Melissa S. from Edmond, OK. If you've got a burning question that you'd like to see answered here, shoot me an email at flossymatt (at) gmail.com. Twitter users can also make nice with me and ask me questions there. Be sure to give me your name and location (and a link, if you want) so I can give you a little shout out.

July 25, 2008 - 3:30am
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