Forget Rio; Should You Visit These Past Summer Olympic Cities?3 min read
With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro coming up soon, we’re now in the midst of what is becoming a biannual tradition of whether or not going to the Games is a good idea – is it safe? Will it be fun, or a logistical nightmare? Does the host country have its act together?
If you’re unsure about whether you want to venture to Brazil this summer, here’s another possible way to scratch that Olympics itch: Consider visiting the site of past Summer Games. Some of the greatest cities in the world have been the site of a Summer Olympics, and you can tour the facilities or see an event at them while being able to spend time in a world-class destination.
Here are some potential suggestions for your pseudo-Olympic getaway:
The 2004 Summer Games seemed to usher in a modern era of everybody freaking out about pre-Olympic disorganization. The facilities were barely done in time for the start of the Olympics. Soon after the Games concluded, Greece plunged into a recession, with many citizens considering the expense of hosting the Games to have been a monumental mistake. On top of this, many of the new facilities built for the Games are now empty or idle.
However, the rich history of Athens as the birthplace of the Olympics makes it worth a visit. Even if the newer facilities are in disrepair, you can visit the Panathenaic Stadium, the arena that played host to the first modern Games, in 1896. And of course you can also visit architectural landmarks such as the Parthenon and Acropolis.
The host of the 1992 Summer Games used the opportunity of the Olympics to revitalize the city. You can visit the Olympic village, now lined by restaurants, bars and apartments along the city’s refurbished waterfront. The sporting venues still in use include Palau Sant Jordi, now used as a large music venue, and the Olympic Stadium, which still hosts various competitions.
More importantly for the city, the Games put Barcelona on the map in terms of a global tourist destination. So consider Barcelona a must-see.
On the other hand, Beijing, host of the 2008 Games, has more of a mixed bag of positive residual impact. The Chinese capital is a major international destination for a variety of reasons, are there certainly are some key Olympic-related attractions you should be sure to see when you’re there. First and foremost, the “Bird Nest,” the Olympic stadium with the lattice design, has become a popular tourist destination. Also, the “Cube” – the venue where s
wimming events were held and American Michael Phelps made history, is now a public water park.
However, other venues from the Beijing Games are pretty vacant. For instance, a $55 million rowing park is virtually unused.
Perhaps most importantly for visitors, the 2008 Games spurred improvements to infrastructure and public transportation, making it much easier to get around to enjoy Beijing’s historical sites and culture.
We included Helsinki because it’s something of a forgotten Olympic venue. The Finnish capital hosted the Summer Games of 1940 and 1952. Today, it’s a fun, easy-to-tour city known for its architecture, fashion and food, not to mention being a great city for bicyclists.
London didn’t have to host the Olympics (three times!) to become a must-visit destination. However, if you want to get a dose of the Olympic spirit during your visit, you can go see the English Premier League’s West Ham United play in the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
The 2000 Summer Games are credited with raising Sydney’s international profile, instilling national pride, and leaving the city with a number of world class venues that are still in use today. It’s possible to go to the Olympic Stadium (now called ANZ Stadium) to take in a National Rugby League match, see a variety of sports at Blacktown Olympic park and catch a concert at Allphones Arena (which was called The SuperDome during the Games).
Other world class cities that have hosted Summer Olympics include Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo, Montreal and Mexico City.
Photo courtesy of: Rue Barue