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Gallery: See what has become of these Olympic host cities after the games left town

What does a white elephant look like?

olympic 1 Eight years after the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, the Igman Olympic Ski Jumps and the area around it became a battle ground during the Siege of Sarajevo, from 1992 to 1996. Things got so bad that the former medal podium was used for executions. Post Media Post Media

SINCE THE INCEPTION of the modern Olympics, there have been 49 winter and summer games held in 41 different cities around the globe. Some were great successes. Others, not so much.

Researchers have known for years that cities that host large sporting events like the Olympics generally spend more money and make less than anticipated. And investing in an Olympic Games won’t necessarily lead to long-term economic growth or improved infrastructure.

Photographers and artists Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit set out to document what exactly happens when the games are over, and discovered varying answers.

olympic 2 Many pieces of architecture originally created for an Olympic event have been gracefully integrated into the landscape. Here, the Montjuïc Communications Tower still stands in Olympic Park in Barcelona. Created for the 1992 Summer Games, the structure was built to beam TV coverage out to the world and was meant to look like an arm holding an Olympic torch. Today, it continues to send out TV signals and remains a striking part of the city skyline.

Pack and Hustwit explored and photographed relics and remains of once-new Olympic features in 13 cities. Their photos, collected in a new book entitled “The Olympic City,” show the varied remnants of Olympic Games gone by.

“We’re interested in the idea of government-approved spending — and these are huge amounts of money — to build massive structures, some of it temporary, all to host an event that will only last a couple of weeks … Are [the people] benefiting from having been a part of the Olympics? Are the games a point of pride or regret?” Pack explains.

Some places faired well, standing the test of time by adapting to new roles. Other structures fell to shambles after years of disuse. Both aspects, rebirth from ingenuity and death from poor planning, are documented in the series, which acts as a interesting behind-the-scenes look at the games we know and love.

olympic 3 Other structures were repurposed. These eighteen 16-story buildings were created to house athletes at the the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, though only a few of them were used, due to the US-led boycott of the games. They have since been made into permanent apartments for state employees.


olympic 4 Similarly, the Olympic Village from the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics was also converted into full time residences, though they have recently fallen into slight disrepair.


olympic 5 The Roses Pool, also built for the 1960 Rome Summer Games, had adapted with the times and is now home to a large athletic center. The pool has expanded from just pure athletic competitions to offer beginners swimming courses and children's summer camps.

olympic 6Here, we see the large wall that has been placed at the foot of the ski jumps which still bears the Olympics Rings insignia.

olympic 7 The site of the Olympic Village for the 1936 Berlin Games, where Jesse Owens won four gold medals under the watchful eye of Adolph Hitler, today stands abandoned and graffitied, except for Owens' dorm, which has been restored and is open to the public.

olympic 8The Jesse Robinson Olympic Park still sits, rather unkempt, in the middle of the busy neighborhood of Compton, Los Angeles. Jesse Robinson, a local advocate for amateur sports, was honored by having the park named after him when the Summer Olympics were held in LA in 1984.


olympic 9 The Olympic after-effect is felt elsewhere in the United States as well. Lake Placid, which held the Winter events in 1980, still bears reminders, such as Art Devlin's Olympic Motor Inn, seen here. Devlin himself was an Olympic ski jumper before going into the hotel business.


olympic 10 The Adirondack Correctional Facility, also in Lake Placid, was the home of the Olympic Village in 1980. Before its stint housing athletes, the compound was a correctional work camp for adult inmates. During the Games, the inmates were relocated. Because of renovations done to accommodate the Village, the facility was able to expand to become a larger, federal prison.


olympic 11 Athens, site of the first modern Olympics in 1896, as well as the 2004 Summer Games, has seen its once impressive facilities fall to pieces in recent years. At the end of the day, the main benefit to be had seems to be a feel-good experience that the people in the host city or the host country have,” Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College, recently told “But that’s a fleeting experience, not something that endures.

Christian Storm

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