What happens to Olympic architecture once the games are done?

Facilities from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games were designed with a 2nd life in mind.

Vocabulary: nomadic architecture, sustainable design

NGSS: SEP1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems, ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Common Core State Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.3, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.3, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9–10.3

Beijing National Stadium used during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Image via Shutterstock

Each Olympic year, much attention is paid to the spectacle of the games set against a backdrop of sparkling new stadiums and arenas. Much less thought is dedicated to what comes after. In recent years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has encouraged cities to think practically about the future of their Olympic infrastructures. Sam Lubell, a contributing writer for WIRED, discusses Rio’s plans for after the games, and the way that future host cities are preparing for their own Olympic legacy.

Audio Excerpt “Rio Redux: A Second Life for the City’s Olympic Architecture” Aug. 12, 2016. (Original Segment)

Print this segment transcript.

Questions for Students

  • Explain what Sam Lubell calls “legacy mode” in Olympic host proposals.
  • Create a definition of nomadic architecture.
  • Hosting the Olympics is expensive and host cities rarely make a profit. Evaluate the reasons a city would want to host the Olympics.
  • Olympics aside, what are some other ways that we can use strategies like “legacy mode” and nomadic architecture to reduce waste?
  • Think about the area where you live. What infrastructure would be necessary to accommodate an event like the Olympics? How would you approach that construction? In your response be sure to look at the increased traffic, how to minimize the “white elephant” effect after the event, and refer to preferences of the IOC presented by Sam Lubell in the interview.

Activity Suggestions

  • Have students survey past Olympic cities. Go and peek at the condition of structures leftover from the games using Google maps. Have students evaluate the effects of hosting the Olympics on host cities.
  • Have student debate the future of Olympic hosting. There are proposals to select five host cities, set up a permanent host location, or to split the events over different locations around the world.