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Olympics

What happens to Olympic stadiums after the games?

Photo: Erick W. Rasco/SI

With the Olympics over, Fisht Stadium will now transform into a soccer venue and will host World Cup games in 2018.

When Sochi turned the lights out in Fisht Stadium following the 2014 Winter Olympics the city knew it would turn those lights on again soon. And for the entire world to watch.

That isn’t always the case. While Fisht will return to the international stage for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the history of Olympic Stadium use post-games over the last 60 years has ranged from demolition to prominence to pure desolation. Here’s a run down:

2014: Sochi, Russia
Brand-new in time to host 40,000 fans for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Fisht Stadium will get transformed over the next four years as one of Russia’s host sites for the 2018 World Cup. Russia also hopes to turn the stadium into a national team training ground. All along the stadium was designed with soccer as its long-term use.

NEWCOMB: Olympics opening ceremony gives soccer fans a look at 2018 World Cup stadium

2012: London, England
Built specifically for the Olympics, there was a temporary nature to London’s Olympic Stadium while officials held onto a different long-term plan for its use. The stadium closed down in 2013 and work started on downsizing and renovating it to open as a smaller, more manageable permanent home for West Ham United in 2016.

2010: Vancouver, Canada
BC Place stood well ahead of the Olympics and plans to reshape the venue didn’t take shape until 2012 -- after the Olympics -- when the venue was remodeled, complete with a retractable roof. Now the stadium has plenty of use as the home to the CFL’s BC Lions and MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps.

2008: Beijing, China
Beijing didn’t care much about “legacy” venues, instead building for the wow of the now. No building better represents that than the Bird’s Nest, officially Beijing National Stadium. Ever since 2008, the venue has made money as a major tourist destination but has hosted little more than the occasional concert or exhibition sporting event.

2006: Turin, Italy
Renovated to host the Olympics, this soccer facility -- now known as Stadio Olimpico -- now seats just over 28,000, which prompted Juventus to build its own 40,000-plus-seat venue. Torino FC still plays in the Olympic home.

2004: Athens, Greece
Opened in 1982, the established soccer venue was renovated for the Olympics. Following the games the soccer club A.E.K. Athens has called it home. The stadium can still hold 75,000 for the local club.

2002: Salt Lake City, Utah
The University of Utah’s 45,000-seat college football stadium took a break from the pigskin to host the Olympics. The stadium opened in 1998 for the university and the Olympics and will continue to host the Utes well into the future.

2000: Sydney, Australia
With a massive capacity of 110,000 for its debut as Sydney Stadium for the Olympics, the newly named ANZ Stadium now holds 84,000 and hosts a variety of rugby and Australian Rules Football events. The venue was resized in 2003 to its current state, still the second largest stadium in Australia. Plans were announced this month for a major renovation that will modernize the stadium, add movable seating for easy configuration changes between sporting events and even tack on a roof.

1998: Nagano, Japan
Already home of the Shinano Grandserows baseball team, this 30,000-seat venue named the Nagano Olympic Stadium took a break for the Olympics before returning to host baseball.

1996: Atlanta, Georgia
Built specifically as a temporary Olympic stadium, the Centennial Olympic Stadium was converted into Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, immediately following the games. The Braves still play at Turner Field but plan to move into a new stadium in 2017.

NEWCOMB: Check out new renderings of the Braves' future stadium

1994: Lillehammer, Norway
This certainly isn’t a stadium as North Americans would consider it, but the seating around the Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Area opened in 1993 in time to host the ceremonies during the 1994 Olympics. The facility underwent renovations in 2007 and still hosts ski jumping.

1992: Barcelona, Spain
Built in 1927 and renovated in 1989 to host the Olympics, Barcelona’s Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys doesn’t serve much of a purpose any longer. Still open and operating, the occasional athletic event or concert keeps the stadium plugging along.

1992: Albertville, France
Built as a 32,000-seat temporary stadium just for Olympic ceremonies, the Theatre of Ceremonies was taken down immediately following the Olympics.

1988: Seoul, South Korea
With 100,000 fans for the Olympics, the stadium opened four years before the games. It was later renovated to hold about 70,000 fans but gets used for little else other than Korea Football Association matches.

1988: Calgary, Canada
Originally opened in 1960, the Calgary McMahon Stadium on the campus of the University of Calgary was expanded in time for the 1988 Olympics. The stadium now serves primarily as a football venue, home to both the university and the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. Renovations in 2001 and 2005 have modernized the building and leave it with about 35,000 seats.

1984: Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1923, played host to the Olympics in 1984. The University of Southern California still plays its home football games there, and some updating is in the stadium’s future.

NEWCOMB: USC starts L.A. Coliseum modernization project

1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Originally opened in 1947, the Olympic Stadium in what was then Yugoslavia took a break from soccer to host the Olympics. It has since returned to soccer, hosting FK Sarajevo and the Bosnia and Herzegovina national soccer squad.

1980: Moscow, Russia
The then-named Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium opened in 1956. Russia used this soccer venue for the Olympics in 1980. Now called Luzhniki Stadium -- and with a new roof since the Olympics -- the stadium doesn’t host much other than some Russian national soccer games, although it will get new life as a host venue for the 2018 World Cup. A renovation is coming.

1980: Lake Placid, New York
The 30,000-seat Lake Placid Equestrian Stadium played host to the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. As its name implies, it normally hosts equestrian events.

1976: Montreal, Canada
Opened in time for the Olympics in Montreal and quickly converted to host MLB’s Expos immediately following, the Stade Olympique in Montreal also hosted CFL football -- at 65,000 capacity -- for more than a decade and even recently took care of the Montreal Impact MLS team for a handful of games. But in all reality, the aging facility hasn’t had a useful purpose in over a decade.

1976: Innsbruck, Austria
In the tradition of ski jump hills hosting the Winter Olympic opening ceremony, the Bergiselschanze hill opened originally in the 1920s and was expanded in 1930 before getting redone for the 1964 Olympics. It again hosted the ceremonies for the 1976 Olympics and in 2003 underwent a redesign from famed architect Zaha Hadid. It continues to host World Cup ski jumping events.

1972: Munich, Germany
Munich Olympic Stadium opened for the Olympics, hosting 80,000 fans. The stadium’s immediate use was encouraging, with the 1974 World Cup final played there two years later and its service as the long-time home to Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich. But the opening of Allianz Arena spelled a downfall for Munich Olympic Stadium, which wasn’t even a host during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The stadium remains open but with only sparse use.

1972: Sapporo, Japan
Originally opened at 30,000 seats, the Makomanai Ice Arena was new for the Olympics, hosting the ceremonies and speed skating. It still hosts speed skating events, now at 17,000 seats.

1968: Mexico City, Mexico
At 83,000 seats, Mexico City’s Olympic Stadium opened in 1950 and met the height of its use for the Olympics. Now, on the camps of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, it mainly hosts American football at a capacity of about 69,000.

1968: Grenoble, France
In the spirit of French-hosted Olympics, the 60,000-seat stadium was completely temporary for the Olympics. It was built for the games and dismantled after.

1964: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Olympic Stadium is back in the news, 50 years after hosting the Olympics. The stadium opened in 1958 and hosted the Olympics and then mainly the Japanese national soccer team. The stadium will get torn down in 2015 to make way for the Zaha Hadid-designed 2020 Olympic venue.

NEWCOMB: Tokyo's Japan National Stadium brings wild design back to Olympics

1964: Innsbruck, Austria
This ski hill has a long and storied history. See 1976 above.

1960: Rome, Italy
Already host to soccer clubs Lazio and Roma, this 65,000-seat Olympic Stadium originally opened in 1937. A rebuild allowed it to host the 1990 World Cup final. It still serves as a home site to soccer and rugby. The stadium underwent another modernization in 2008.

1960: Squaw Valley, California
At only 8,500 capacity, this 1959-built arena hosted the Olympic ceremonies, ice hockey and figure skating. But Blyth Arena’s roof collapsed in the 1980s, and the venue was demolished in 1983. It is now a parking lot.

1956: Melbourne, Australia
The Melbourne Cricket Ground, at 100,000 seats, is the largest stadium in Australia. The precursor to the massive stadium took shape in 1853 and has hosted everything from cricket to rugby to Australian rules football -- along with the 1956 Olympics.

1956: Corina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Built in 1954 as an open-air skating arena, Olympic Ice Stadium sat 12,000 for the Olympics. In the 1980s Italy added a roof to keep the stadium viable for skating events.

1952: Helsinki, Finland
The largest stadium in Finland, the 40,000-seat Olympic Stadium, opened in 1938 and now hosts the national soccer team, various other sporting events and concerts.

1952: Oslo, Norway
The 20,000-seat Bislett Stadium actually opened in 1922 and hosted speed skating before, during and after the Olympics. Bislett was demolished in 2004, and a new stadium, which now mostly hosts track and field, soccer and rugby, was built in its place.

1948: London, England
One of the most storied stadiums in history, the 82,000-seat Wembley Stadium opened in 1923. Hosting the Olympics in 1948 is just part of its legacy. Wembley is more revered for its place as the home of England’s national soccer team, and it hosted the 1966 World Cup final. The stadium was closed in 2000 and torn down in 2003 to make way for the new Wembley Stadium.

NEWCOMB: New Wembley Stadium nods to its forebearer, seeks own history

1948: St. Moritz, Switzerland
The 1928 Winter Olympics had a brand-new venue in the St. Moritz Olympic Ice Rink. The outdoor venue for hockey, speed skating and figure skating again hosted the Olympics in 1948.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. 

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