Photo by Ted Eytan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Ted Eytan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What happens to host cities after the Olympics?

March 2, 2022

As the 2022 Winter Olympics conclude in the bustling Chinese capital of Beijing, the Olympic committee prepares for the 2024 Summer games in Paris. From the opening ceremony to the closing, host cities typically enjoy the prosperity brought by the games. However, hosting an Olympic games is considered a costly investment in terms of public reception and financial burden. Since the modern games’ inception in 1898, cities have dealt with this burden in different ways. Several of the most interesting cases are listed below: 

Sochi, Russia

The Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia has since been repurposed into a soccer stadium.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user “SKas”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Sochi is a resort city in southwestern Russia that borders the Black Sea, one of the only cities in Russia with a subtropical climate. Straight from the selection of Sochi as the host city, reporters and athletes alike began to document the abuses and shortcomings of the 2014 Winter Olympic games. 

As preparation began, local terrorist groups issued threats; the Russian government created a “ring of steel” in security forces around Sochi. With the public already tense, the host country passed discriminatory laws just months before the opening ceremony, which damaged international reception. Soon afterwards, investigators and the Olympic Committee uncovered a doping scandal performed by Russian athletes and higher-ups in which over 1,000 athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs. The athletes in question were pardoned, but all 46 medals won under the Russian flag were revoked. 

On top of the numerous controversies, the Sochi Olympics proved a costly investment for the Russian government with little payoff in the years to come. Though the Olympic Stadium hosted games for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, expensive Olympic venues such as the bobsled and ski-jump course sit unused to this day. 

Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

The bobsled course in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina sits unused since 1984.
Photo by Julian Nyča. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo’s tenure as host of the 1984 Winter Olympics was mostly uneventful, save for the volunteers mistakenly raising the Olympic flag upside down in the opening ceremony. The games certainly had an air of tension—four years prior, the US and other countries fully boycotted the 1980 Moscow Winter Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

Despite any tension, the Sarajevo games ran smoothly, with East Germany topping the medal count with 9 golds. 

After the Olympics concluded, longstanding tensions in the Balkans melted over. From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian War enveloped the region and resulted in untold destruction. Sarajevo, the largest city in the disputed territory, was caught in the middle of the conflict. As Yugoslavia fragmented, so too do the ruins of the Olympic venues sit fragmented or in disrepair. 

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

In 1996, Atlanta hosted the United States’ first Olympic games since the widely acclaimed 1984 Los Angeles games. Boxer Muhammad Ali lit the torch, kicking off an Olympics that the US would dominate.  

The US gymnastics team, nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven,” shocked the world by beating the ten-time reigning champions Russia in total points. The world watched as gymnast Kerri Strug, injured from a previous set, landed dramatically on the balance beam to seal the United States’ victory. 

The games progressed without controversy until disaster struck in Centennial Olympic Park. On July 27, a bomb exploded in the middle of a free concert, claiming two lives and hundreds of injuries. Rather than postponing the games, athletes and the IOC decided to continue them while paying respects to the victims of the bombing. 

The final medal count saw the United States top the totals with 101 medals, including 44 gold medals. 

Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, USA remains in use to this day. Photo by Ted Eytan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Though held nearly 26 years ago, Atlanta retains the Olympic spirit through the transformation of Centennial Olympic Park into a tourist site, allowing visitors to relive moments of the games or simply spend time in the park. 

Likewise, the facilities used are now maintained under mostly private ownership.  




Though this year’s Olympics have now concluded, the legacy left in Olympic cities is paramount. Whether good or bad, host cities over the years have enjoyed public spotlight brought by the international competition.   

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