Olympic Leftovers

After the games, the villages remain

Athens (Olympic City Project)
Athens (Olympic City Project)


After watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics on TV, photographer Jon Pack wondered how the games affect host cities—for better and for worse. The Olympic City, a photography project by Pack and Gary Hustwit, looks at such legacies. Rarely does all the money that goes into hosting the games make the cities significantly better, Hustwit observes. “It’s more about the short term.”

But this isn’t always the case, they say. In Mexico City, host of the 1968 Summer Olympics, “almost all of the Olympic venues are still sporting facilities today,” says Hustwit. “It was the first games to be held in a developing country, and the city has really grown around the buildings.” Lake Placid, New York, host of the 1980 Winter Games, planned ahead to adapt and reuse. The Federal Bureau of Prisons provided $49 million to build Olympics dorms there, which were then converted to a medium-security facility, today housing 1,200 offenders. In contrast, most of the facilities the Greek government spent millions of Euros to build in Athens for the 2004 Summer Games have since gone unused.

So far Pack and Hustwit have photographed Olympic sites in Los Angeles, Montreal, Lake Placid, Athens, Rome, Barcelona, Sarajevo, and Mexico City. With the help of a kickstarter.com fundraising campaign that yielded more than $66,000, they plan to visit at least two more cities. Their ultimate goal is to publish a large-format book.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Vanessa Schipani is a former editorial assistant at The American Scholar.


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