In the past, Olympic host cities spent billions of dollars on grandiose structures that soon become “white elephants.” Montreal’s “Big O” Olympic stadium, used for the 1976 games, currently costs the Canadian province about $32 million to maintain each year and has never been able to pay for itself, despite its afterlife hosting trade shows and movie shoots. More recently, Athens and Rio de Janeiro each saw their Olympic venues deteriorate soon after the games concluded.
This year’s Winter Olympics host, Pyeongchang, is taking a different tack.
The most visible of the South Korean county’s new venues is the 35,000-seat Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. After being used four times in total, including at this Sunday’s closing ceremony, and next month’s Paralympics, the plan is to tear it apart. Some might argue that demolishing a brand-new stadium is wasteful. But it’s one of basically two ideas—at opposite ends of the spectrum—for how to host large-scale games more economically.
The temporary stadium
Increasingly, cities are thinking about short-term or “pop-up” stadiums, not a structure that’ll last for decades.
Rather than let a venue fall into inevitable disrepair, the logic goes, it’s better to build in a short shelf life. That allows you to skip things you’d include in a long-term structure and keep costs down. According to the Pyeongchang organizing committee, Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza cost about $110 million, including $75 million for the stadium.
By comparison, Russia’s Fisht Olympic Stadium cost around $600 million to build, and Tokyo’s new national stadium for the 2020 games is expected to cost $1.5 billion. The Pyeongchang stadium is no-frills: for example, it features no roof and no heating. Given Pyeongchang’s frigid climate, that’s impractical for long-term use.
Not that demolition is an easy option. One reason Montreal’s stadium hasn’t been demolished, for example, is that experts don’t see demolition costing less than $100 million, and possibly much, much more. (The Pyeongchang committee referred Quartz’s queries on the cost and time-frame for the dismantling to the county.)
Outside the Olympics, Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, is pursuing a different approach to “temporary.” Plans unveiled late last year show the 40,000-seat Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is modular, built out of shipping containers so it can be disassembled and reassembled like a jigsaw puzzle, possibly at other locations.
Read more at Quartz.