1. Environmental
August 1, 2016

20 photos which prove that hosting the Olympics is a great way to regenerate a city

By Jonn Elledge

Barcelona is the largest city on the Mediterranean – but until the 1980s, it largely ignored its coastline, a drab industrial zone, cut off from the city by a stretch of urban motorway.

Hosting the 1992 Olympics was a great opportunity to change all that. The city cleaned up the waterfront, installed two miles of beaches, and got Frank Gehry to design this sculpture:

Gehry’s “Peix d’Or” sculpture. Image: Till Niermann/Wikimedia Commons.

Today, thanks to the Olympics, Barcelona’s waterfront is a key element of the city’s appeal to tourists and business travellers alike. The city’s Olympic athletics park, halfway up Mont Juic, is still in use today, too:

Bacelona’s Olympic Park in 2004. Image: Madalvarez/Wikimedia Commons.

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To host the 2012 games, London turned a derelict industrial area into a vast new waterfront park. It’s since turned the athletes village into new residential and commercial area, the East Village. Here’s a new resident moving in in 2013:

The area even got its own postcode, E20 – though some of the street names are a bit on the obnoxious side:


When Berlin hosted the 1936 Olympics, the sports-loving Nazis decided to build the vast new Olympiastadion:

Image: Bundesarchive.

Remarkably, 80 largely uneventul years later, the stadium is still standing:

Image: Wolfgang 26/Wikimedia Commons.


Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. Here’s a photograph of the ski jumping venue, 30 years later:

And here’s the bob sleigh run:


Of course, Sarajevo was at the centre of the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995, so its Olympic Park received unusually heavy bombing. Athens managed to achieve much the same effect without the assistance of a horrific civil war.

The Greek capital spent €9 billion hosting the summer Olympics in 2004. It was all worth it, though: here’s a picture of the aquatic centre, ten years on:

And here’s the beach volleyball stadium:

This is the pool in the athletes village:

And here’s a view of the canoe and kayak slalom. There’s another at the top of the page:

Not even sure what this one is. Seriously, not a clue.


The 2008 Beijing Olympics had five different Olympic mascots, each a different Olympic colour, each representing one of the traditional Chinese elements, and each reflecting a particular “wish”.

JingJing, for example, was a panda representing the forest. He is black and his wish is happiness.

Nini is a green swallow, representing the sky, while Yingying is a yellow Tibetan antelope, representing the earth. They represent good luck and good health respectively. As you can probably tell:


Beibei is a blue fish, symbolising water and prosperity.


Last but not least, there’s Huanhuan, who as you can clearly see represents fire and the passion of sport. He isn’t an animal, but the embodiment of the Olympic spirit. Look:



All these mascots were photographed lying face down behind an abandoned, half-constructed mall, which is definitely not a metaphor for anything. Neither is the fact that their pal Fu Niu Lele, the mascot of the 2008 Paralympic games, was lying nearby:



Still, I’m sure everything in Rio will work out just fine.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Unless specified, all images courtesy of Getty.

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