For Host Cities, Olympic Legacies Are Mixed

The two-week competition is often touted as a galvanizing force for urban development. But that's only cities include the Games' legacy in their planning process from the start.

2 minute read

August 25, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


London 2012 Olympic Games

Alistair Ross / Flickr

"Is hosting the Olympics worth it? Though organizers will invariably say yes, the truth is more complex than a yes or a no, and differs greatly based on the city." In an in-depth piece, Nate Berg explores the legacy of the Olympic Games for several cities, featuring Athens and London. 

"For the modern era, Athens and London offer two contrasting examples of what cities can get from hosting the Olympics—a collection of unusable, debt-collecting sports venues or a catalyst for the regeneration of a huge swath of the city." Around London's Olympic venue, lots of new housing is under construction. Athens, on the other hand, is using some facilities to house refugees.

Of course, whether Olympics are successful after they're over has a lot to do with national conditions. But individual host cities' choices can play a bigger role. For instance, "Los Angeles's 1984 Olympics have proven to be one of the most fiscally responsible Olympics, which the city achieved by reusing many existing venues from its previous hosting stint in 1932 and other sites throughout the city."

Recently, London stands out as a city that focused its preparation on what would happen after the Games ended. Berg writes, "The Olympic site and its fringes are expected to see the development of about 10,000 new residential units by 2030, some directly related to the Olympic planning and some developed privately."

Now that the Games in Rio are over (and thankfully without any major disasters), we'll have to keep tabs on whether the city's preparations pay off in the long term.

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