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Olympic venues after the games: 6 examples of successful reuse

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Not every Olympic Village becomes a ghost town

Kids play in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park in the summer.

After the crowds disperse and the athletes fly home, some Olympic venues are left in a state of limbo, enshrined in sports history but without a future purpose. Just six months after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, for example, the Olympic Village already looked like a ghost town. Similar architecture ruin porn can be seen in Beijing, Athens, and Rio de Janeiro.

But while there’s a constant debate over whether hosting the Olympics is worth it, there are a few cities that have had long-term success with venues built for the games. In these cases, ski jump centers still host thousands of athletes each year, and huge sports arenas now function as multi-sport community centers.

In honor of the Winter Games currently underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, we’ve rounded up six Olympic venue success stories from summer and winter games in the past 25 years.

The Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena from the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer

At the ski jump in Lillehammer, you can still watch people jump almost every day of the year.

With a population of around 26,000 people, it would be easy to think that the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer would be unable to maintain the giant facilities required for the Olympics. But Lillehammer is in many ways the gold standard for post-Olympic success, with nearly all of the venues still in use. The Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena—located directly in town and home of the opening ceremony—is used year-round, as are many other venues. The city also successfully held the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016.

The beachfront created for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona

One of the many beaches created for the Barcelona Olympic Games.

Barcelona is now considered a top tourist destination known for amazing food, sun, and art from masters like architect Antoni Gaudí. But in 1992, the city was viewed as a grimy, industrial stopover on the way to Spain’s more popular destinations. The 1992 games transformed Barcelona, building a modern marina and creating two miles of beachfront. Now, a subway stops less than a quarter-mile from the beaches where Olympic volleyball players competed, and the city has a thriving beachfront culture.

Centennial Olympic Park from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

The play fountains at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

This 21-acre park in downtown Atlanta was previously full of vacant industrial buildings and blighted lots. During the Olympics, athletes and visitors used the park for medal presentations and entertainment. Now, it’s a thriving oasis in the center of downtown, offering everything from live music to festivals and even a summer play fountain in the shape of the Olympic rings.

Sydney Olympic Park from the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney

Cars race in the Sydney 500 in the Sydney Olympic Park in 2016.
Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Located on the west side of Sydney in a formerly run-down industrial park, the 1,580-acre Sydney Olympic Park continues to be a hot spot for sporting, musical, and cultural events. Combined with business conferences, the park attracts more than 12 million annual visitors, including about 800,000 people annually for the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Utah Olympic Park from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City

A freestyle aerial show in the summer at the Utah Olympic Park.
Image courtesy of Park City Chamber/Bureau

This 400-acre park in Park City, Utah, was built to host five events during the Salt Lake City Winter Games: bobsled, skeleton, luge, and the Nordic combined events. Today, the venue is still hopping with activity; visitors can take a run on the Comet bobsled ride, tube the Nordic jump, swing from ropes in the Discovery Zone, and watch events throughout the year.

The Richmond Olympic Speed Skating Oval from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

Built for the 2010 games, the Richmond Olympic Speed Skating Oval now serves as a community multi-sport park.

All of Vancouver’s venues from the 2010 Winter Olympics remain in use, in large part thanks to a $110 million trust that ensures the facilities don’t fall into disrepair. The speed skating oval has seen about 550,000 visitors each year, hosting hockey games, speed skating, basketball and squash courts, and an indoor track.