The lasting legacy and symbolic iconography of the Olympic Games has lived on and will continue to live on in the hearts of the hosting nation and in minds across the globe. Not only showcasing the cultures, values, and prowess of the nation, the Games also provide a powerful springboard for a magnitude of developments in the host city. Come 2016, the Olympics will have been hosted by 44 cities in 23 countries, with Rio becoming the first to fly the Olympics flag in South America.
Flickr Credit: John & Mel Kots
Hosting the first modern-day Olympics back in 1896, Greece demanded that the Games be hosted in Athens on a permanent basis, but the IOC passed the torch on to Paris for the 1900 Olympics – and how thankful we are for that, allowing other countries to experience the prosperity and transformation that the Games inevitably bring.
The 2004 Games, defined by the motto “Welcome home”, left Athens with a brand new airport, upgrades to the Athens ring road, and a terrific tram system. Major streets and squares, such as Syntagma Square and Eolou Street, were reconstructed, and archaeological sites were restored. A city of ancient ruins it may well be, but many of the Olympic sites are still very much in use today, ranging from football stadiums to concert halls, with these landmark buildings denoting the new Athens.
Not only did the Olympics improve infrastructure, but the city experienced the satisfaction of volunteerism, recognised the importance of immigrant workers, and revelled in the spirit of teamwork.
Flickr Credit: Guillen Perez
The 1992 Games in Barcelona became the catalyst for urban renewal in the city. Wasteland and decaying industrial sites transformed into housing, parks, and recreational areas. Previously considered marginal areas, new districts revealed themselves. Take for example the neighbourhoods of El Born and Sant Pere. Pre-Olympics they were derelict, decaying, but the Games transformed the area into a creative mecca, a magnet for the artisan community. The major facelift the city underwent in preparation for the Olympics, revitalised and revamped, without conceding its unique charm.
Much of the improved infrastructure is owed to the Games, spurring spending sprees on transport systems, airport extensions with two new terminals at El Prat, and roadway improvements. Miles and miles of man-made beaches were crafted in a city once famous for turning its back on the sea. With the construction of the Olympic Village and Port in Poblenou, Barcelona now embraced, not ignored, the seafront.
Before 1992, Barcelona was relatively unknown despite its rich history, fascinating architecture, and curious culture. The Olympics marked the city on the map, and it is now the twelfth most popular tourist destination in the world.
Flickr Credit: Kevin Neagle
Since 2005, Britain had been building up to this moment. Seven years of preparation, seven years of anticipation, and the 2012 Games arrived. The opening ceremony itself showcased the changing face of the UK over the eras and led us into this poignant change that will inevitably leave a lasting legacy, not only on the urban developments, but in national psyche.
Areas of contaminated landfill sites and polluted industrial land (740 acres to be exact) have been transformed into prosperous landscapes, with the iconic Olympic Park shifting the focal point of the city. Stratford, and its surrounding areas, had been screaming out for regeneration and finally the Games provided the motivation to whip this area into shape.
Once the Olympics and Paralympics are over, this urban area will characterise London, incentivising growth and development long into the future.