What becomes of cities that host the Olympic Games, when the athletes and stadiums full of people depart?
Cities typically spend the better part of a decade planning and preparing to host the Olympics, starting when the city initially declares interest and submits an official bid to host, to the International Olympic Committee’s selection, to the eventual opening ceremony taking place. Previous host cities have used the Games as an economic motivation, to invest in much-needed improvements to public transit and brand-new infrastructure.
How real are the economic benefits of hosting the Olympics? According to an Oxford University study completed in July 2016, cities rarely profit from hosting the Games and in fact they often accrue billions of dollars worth of debt. And while the Games are thought to yield economic pay offs, there have been few studies examining the impact of hosting on a city’s real estate markets.
The prospect of revitalization is seen as a major advantage of staging the Olympics. But, in actuality, how are property values affected in host cities? For New York-based photographers Gary Hustwit and Jon Pack, previous host cities offer a few case examples. For their ongoing documentary project, The Olympic City, Hustwit and Pack revisited former host cities to bear witness to the successes and failures of these one-time Olympic landscapes. A selection of Hustwit and Pack’s observations are listed below.
Questions Remain in Rio
Now that the Rio Olympics have wrapped up, questions remain about the fate of the city’s new real estate, which was built to accommodate the event. The property which housed Rio’s Olympic Village has been put in the hands of Carlos Carvalho, a wealthy developer. Carvalho envisions that the area will become a hip, new residential community; so far, only a small fraction of the apartments have been sold.
Beijing (2008 Summer Olympics)
Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, experienced a surge of development in preparation for the 2008 Games. “To put their construction frenzy into perspective, more than all the office space in Manhattan (some 500 million square feet) was erected in Beijing in the two years leading up to the games,” noted Tierney Plumb in HighTower Blog.
Atlanta (1996 Summer Olympics)
Atlanta spent $1 billion in “an Olympic building frenzy” leading up to the Summer Games in 1996. Some of that real estate is still highly visible in the city’s landscape; other developments languished. Most people consider Centennial Olympic Park and Turner Field to be the greatest legacy of those games.
Barcelona (1992 Summer Olympics)
In Barcelona in 1992, host city officials decided to redevelop parts of the city, focusing on a former industrial area along Barcelona’s waterfront. After functioning as a mixed-use neighborhood to house the athletes’ village, the property became a major tourist destination.
Seoul (1988 Summer Olympics)
Many analysts believe the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul set a precedent for a “neurotic” model of economic development, a development template which has plagued Olympic host cities since that year.
Montreal (1976 Summer Olympics)
The 1976 Summer Games in Montreal are considered to be the epitome of “host city development gone awry.” Pre-Olympics development in Montreal cost taxpayers $1.5 billion, a debt that took 30 years for the city’s residents to pay off.