Olympics


The Urban Games

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August 3, 2016
For Olympic host cities, wins and losses last forever

On a field of dirt, about a hundred octagonal white tents are lined up in neat rows. They’re weather-beaten and coated with dust, but the logo of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees still peeks through on their fabric rooftops, revealing their purpose. Like many refugee camps set up in recent years, this one is a mix of desperation and inactivity. Unlike most others, it’s surrounded by stadium seating.

Stadium Upgrades Squeezing Out Brazil's Poorer Fans

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May 5, 2011
Generations of Brazilians have grown up in the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, known around the world as the Maracanã. Built for the 1950 World Cup and at the time the largest stadium in the world, it became an instant national landmark, a symbol of Brazil’s soccer-centric culture.

Luxury boxes, modern seating and safety improvements are reasons Brazil’s stadiums are changing as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The stadium, which is likely to host the 2014 World Cup opener and final, is flanked by hills and favelas, the city’s notoriously poor slums. Far above, from behind the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the distant Maracanã looks like a still birdbath amid the pulsing metropolis.

Photos: The Urban Games

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August 3, 2016
For Olympic host cities, wins and losses last forever. Scenes from Athens and London.

Refugee camp, Olympics site, Athens

Main Olympics park, Athens

Main Olympics park, Athens

Olympic park and development, London

Decay at the main Olympics park, Athens

Why Can't We Just Host the Olympics in the Same Place Every Year?

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September 6, 2013
Economists agree: the Olympics are bad for cities. There's an obvious solution.

On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee will change the destiny of one city forever. Yes, tomorrow's the big day when committee members will decide whether Istanbul, Madrid, or Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. For the chosen city, it's a decision that could catalyze transformative infrastructure projects and long-term investment.

Of course, more likely, it will shackle the host city with cost overruns, underused venues and displaced and disaffected citizens.

Sarajevo: Post-Olympic City and Post-War City

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July 27, 2012
A photo project reveals long legacies of the Olympics and the war in Sarajevo.

After taking second place in the giant slalom race on February 14, 1984, 21-year-old Jure Franko stood on this concrete podium as the first and only member of the home team to receive an Olympic medal when the city of Sarajevo, then of Yugoslavia, hosted the Winter Olympics. Eight years later, this same podium would be the site of a more grisly event, the executions of countless victims of the Bosnian War and Siege of Sarajevo.

These two separate and wildly different events still have a strong presence in this city, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Planning for the Vancouver Olympics

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February 10, 2010
The Winter Olympics will begin later this week in Vancouver, British Columbia. Like other hosts of such large-scale sporting events, the city has been getting ready for the international spotlight for many years. To hear more about what's been going on in the city in terms of urban planning, I interviewed Vancouver Planning Director Brent Toderian, and you can read a transcript of that Q&A on Places.

Toderian, as many Planetizen readers will already know, is also an active contributor to Interchange, where he writes about some of the city's most forward-thinking moves to help create the dense urban environment that has become the model for North American urbanism.

Our discussion focused mainly on the Olympics and how they will impact the city's urbanism. Toderian tells us about the years leading up to the Olympics, what it was like to take over as planning director halfway through the city's preparations for the event, and what sort of legacy the Games will leave on Vancouver.

The Olympics and the City

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February 8, 2010
On Friday February 12 the 2010 Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver. Like all host cities, Vancouver had to plan for a sprint and a marathon — it had to develop, finance, design and build a range of sport and residential venues that would not only make the two-week event a big success but also, when the world had gone back home, become a vital and enduring part of the city fabric.

Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian spoke recently with journalist Nate Berg, of Planetizen, about how the city, known for progressive planning and green thinking, was meeting the Olympic challenge.

Nate Berg: Your city is just about to host the Olympics. What’s the mood like there?

London's Big Stadium Gamble

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June 30, 2009
The Olympics can be awesome for cities. Or they can be devastating. Rarely they're both, and most often they are an economic drain caused by over-investment in facilities with limited long-term usability. So when London announced plans for a 2012 Summer Olympics stadium that would reduce from 80,000 seats during the games to a more realistically usable 25,000 seats after, Olympics experts, city officials and taxpayers rejoiced. But recent news has turned that rejoice to disgust.

London Olympics officials are now flipping a sharp U-turn, calling to revise plans for the stadium to keep the 80,000 seats permanently. Margaret Ford, the new head of the Olympic legacy team, is confident the stadium will be able to pull in crowds all year, and is leading the charge to make permanent what has for years been designed as temporary.

In fact, the stadium is already under construction. This late-stage program change is bound to throw a wrench into the renderings of designer Populous (formerly HOK Sport).