As I’ve mentioned before, I’m well and truly in the midst of Olympic fever. But rather than letting my new found obsession distract me from my job, I thought I’d channel that energy into something positive. That’s instead of chanelling it into hitting ‘refresh’ every 5 minutes on my ‘Greco-Wrestling Update’ Twitter feed, in case you’re wondering.
So, productivity firmly in place, I got to thinking of a way to combine my long established love affair wtih travel with my (let’s face it) short fling with the Olympics. Suddenly, the answer to my quest hit me like a (Usain) bolt of lightening: the Olympic stadiums, of course!
22 cities around the world have hosted the modern Olympic Games; that’s 22 cities with Olympic Stadiums that, surely, must have a story to tell. What are the stadiums being used for now? Have they fallen into a state of disarray, or have they been lovingly cherished and turned into some sort of water park (surely not!)?
My search for those stories took me all over the world (OK, the internet), to find out just what had happened to the Olympic Stadiums of yesteryear. Here’s my pick of the best.
The rings are instantly recognisable, but can the same be said of the Olympic stadiums? | Image courtesy of Revenge of the Rings
The world’s Olympic stadiums: where are they now?
1. Beijing (2008)
Four years ago, all eyes were on Beijing and the extraordinary Bird’s Nest, as the the main stadium in the city’s Olympic Park was christened. Four years on and the site is proving to be a nice little earner, with tickets for entrance into the stadium going for ¥50 (around £5), while ¥30 (£3) will get you into the awesome Water Cube. Part of it has been transformed into the water park of your childhood dreams, and you can treat your inner child to a water slide and a trip down the lazy river for ¥200 (£20).
Marvel at the Bird's Nest in Beijing | Image by Francisco Diez
Alternatively, save yourself some cash and just go for a bog standard swim for ¥50. In my opinion, the entrance fees are well worth the money – the architecture of the Bird’s Nest is absolutely incredible, and saying you’ve swam in an Olympic pool is pretty darn cool.
3. Sydney (2000)
It was the largest Olympic stadium ever built, with a capacity for 110,000 sports fans – these Aussies don’t do anything by halves, I tell you. Seating has now been reduced to around 70,000, but that still makes for a pretty atmospheric rugby, football, Aussie rules or cricket match, any of which you could catch here these days. Well worth trying to take one in on your trip to Sydney.
2. Athens (1896 and 2004)
The Greek capital has had the pleasure of hosting the Games twice: once for the inaugural event back in 1896, and again in 2004. Spiros Louis, the stadium used in 2004, has since been used as the home of several Athens football clubs, but, along with the surrounding Olympic Park, has been somewhat neglected in recent years, and broken seats and a ripped track are the order of the day.
Happily, the Panathenaic Stadium used for the first modern Olympic Games has fared slightly better. First built in 4 BC, the site was renovated for the 1986 Games, and today you can run along the track used by the first modern Olympians at the only stadium in the world to be built entirely out of white marble.
Go back to where it all began in Athens | Image by Rosino
4. Barcelona (1992)
Barcelona’s stadium wasn’t purpose built for the Games that Spain hosted in 1992. In fact, it was originally built to host the People’s Olympiad in 1936, a protest against the Olympics being held in Berlin, but the event was cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War.
Renovated for the 1992 Olympics, the stadium has since been used a music venue. Visiting on a quiet, balmy Spanish afternoon now, and it’s hard to imagine that its serene location once played host to the biggest sporting event on the planet. A stop on the hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, the site is well worth a visit, particularly since it’s situated on en route to Montjuic Castle; a great excuse to put your sightseeing hat on.
5. Seoul (1988)
The stadium in South Korea’s capital was the site of one of the most controversial finals in sporting history, with 100m sprinter Ben Johnson having his title stripped following a positive drugs test. The Jamsil Olympic Stadium has since been used as a concert venue, hosting the likes of Lady GaGa and, just last weekend, the world’s biggest electronic dance music festival.
The Ultra Musical Festival was hailed by South Korean press as, “Korea’s best weekend in recent memory, with an atmosphere so special that words could not properly describe”, which seems a tad OTT, but hey – perhaps London isn’t the only city caught up in Olympic Stadium fever.
6. Munich (1972)
Munich’s Olympic Park was built when Germany had the Olympic hosting honour in 1972, and it’s shaped up to be quite the Centre Parcs these days; it’s got an ice rink, indoor pool, apartments, student residencies (beats that 60s monstrosity on campus you live in, right?) and, until 2006, was the home of Bayern Munich FC. In the adventurous Olympic spirit, you can take part in a roof climb on top of the stadium, and then abseil or zipline down – wheeee! The stadium is super-easy to visit, just an U-Bahn ride away.
7. Mexico City (1968)
Mexico City’s Olympic Stadium saw Black American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos perform a black power salute during the 200m medal ceremony as a protest against the treatment of black people in the USA. Less controversial these days, it’s now home to American football team Pumas Dorados de la UNAM and the football team Pumas de la Universidad.
Check out Diego Rivera's beautiful mural at the Estadio Olímpico in Mexico City | Image by Eneas
One of the more aesthetically impressive stadiums, its part of the Ciudad Universitaria site, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007. The stunning mosaic by legendary Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, confirm its status as a must-see on a visit to Mexico City.