I will admit it...I am a fan of the Olypics...both summer and winter. My first memories of the Olympics were the 1984 summer games in LA. I remember watching boxing, Zola Budd run Mary Decker Slaney off the track and of course Mary Lou Retton. I remember the 84 winter games in Sarajevo. Somehow these games in particular deeply formed my fondness for the Olympics. I remember thinking it was such a beautiful place. I lamented the Bosnian war because of those memories of the 84 games and my memories of that place. (The image above shows a bit of the damage the war caused to many of the sites of the games.)
Today, I saw on Facebook a link to an article about the ruin that has become many of the venues from the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Take a look at the images here. This is heartbreaking to me. Not just because abandoment is always has a sad element to it, but because of the sheer cost of it to people of China. What do our ethics of place suggest about these ruins? Certainly the Olympics, particularly for China, were about putting on a beautiful face for the world...about showing how modern and advanced they are as a rising superpower. But was it all an act of ideology...propaganda? The way they have left the buildings go would suggest so to me at least. What sickens me, is that leaving the buildings to ruin compounds the monetary cost in a country where there are so many people in poverty. No longer are they a source of pride for a developing nation, they are the signs of a nation's propaganda.
After posting the article on my own FB account, a friend wondered if that happened more often. Apprently so. Another friend posted a link to an article about the modern ruins of Greece...the Olympic venues from the 2004 games. This article was from 2010 but already mentions the economic collapse of the country and the inability to maintain or advance the sites as had originally been hoped for.
If we view the Olympics through a lens of place and economics, what comes from those investigations? While the country does make an increase in revenue for the weeks before, during, and after the games, but should a nation host the games if it is unable to maintain the venues it charges its citizens for? Are these sites, like most other commodities, simply disposable after their period of use has passed? I dont know, but these thoughts will be in the back of my mind as I watch the games with a little less enjoyment this year.