Why is it innovative, not useless, to destroy the Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang – Quartz

In the past, Olympic host cities spent billions of dollars on grandiose structures that would soon become “white elephants”. Montreal’s “Big O” Olympic Stadium, used for the 1976 Games, currently costs the Canadian province approximately $ 32 million to maintain each year and has could never afford, despite his afterlife hosting trade shows and film shoots. More recently, Athens and Rio de Janeiro each saw their Olympic venues deteriorate soon after the games ended.

This year’s Winter Olympics host Pyeongchang takes a different approach.

The most visible of South Korea’s new county venues is the 35,000-seat Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. After being used a total of four times, including Sunday’s closing ceremony and next month’s Paralympics, the plan is to tear it up. Some might argue that the demolition of a brand new stadium is a waste. But that’s one of the two main ideas – at opposite ends of the spectrum – for how to host large-scale games more economically.

The provisional stadium

More and more, cities are thinking in the short term or “arise”Stadiums, not a structure that will last for decades.

Rather than letting a place fall into inevitable disrepair, the logic goes, it is better to build in a short lifespan. This allows you to ignore the items you would include in a long-term structure and keep costs down. According to the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, the Pyeongchang Olympic Square cost around $ 110 million, including $ 75 million for the stadium.

In comparison, the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Russia costs around $ 600 million to build, and the new Tokyo National Stadium for the 2020 Games is expected to cost $ 1.5 billion. Pyeongchang Stadium is simple: for example, it presents no roof and no heating. Considering the icy climate of Pyeongchang, it is not practical for long term use.

Not that demolition is an easy option. One of the reasons the Montreal stadium was not demolished, for example, is that experts don’t see the cost of demolition. less than $ 100 million, and maybe a lot, a lot more. (The Pyeongchang committee referred Quartz’s questions about the cost and timing of the dismantling to the county.)

Apart from the Olympics, Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, pursues a different approach from the “provisional”. Plans unveiled at the end of last year show that the 40,000-seat Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is modular, built from shipping containers so that it can be dismantled and put together like a puzzle, possibly in other places.

It is not known how much the project will cost. The Qatar World Cup organizing committee and Fenwick Iribarren Architects, designer of the Ras Abu Aboud stadium, did not respond to Quartz’s request for an interview.

Benjamin S. Flowers, professor of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said other event planners might be reluctant to rely on modular materials from Qatar, as mega-sports venues must be built to specific standards based on their location and use. “I guess Qatar will end up donating it to another country,” Flowers told Quartz.

The reusable stadium is not, however, a completely new concept.

In Switzerland, the organizers of the 2013 Alpine and Wrestling Festival ordered an ephemeral hall with 50,000 seats, built by Nussli Group. Nussli also made a temporary place of 20,168 places as a short-term home for Fortuna Dusseldorf, a German football league, which cost only 3.9 million dollars. A spokesperson for Nussli said the cost of the Düsseldorf football stadium is so low because it uses its own existing scaffolding equipment, which it rents from the organizers of different events. “If we produced this completely new scaffolding material for a stadium every time, the end costs would of course be higher,” she told Quartz.

It is therefore difficult to compare these structures at Pyeongchang Stadium or other sites that are likely based on new building materials. Flowers adds that the International Olympic Committee “needs a vast infrastructure to support all kinds of media, medical care, hospitality and other uses in ‘back-of-home’ operations that require many more built elements’ that reusable stadium suppliers do not always do specialized.

Rented and reusable structures also do not contribute to the host economy by sending business to local construction companies. Given these competing demands, there is some logic in Pyeongchang’s approach.

Flowers says Pyeongchang organizers deserve “some credit for being much more modest in their outlook” on the stadium’s future. After all, the people of the county is only slightly higher than the capacity of the stadium. But, for an architect, building something designed to be destroyed is a difficult approach to really accept.

“I think it’s a victory in the short term, but in the long term it’s probably a loss,” he said. “As a model, I find it deeply problematic that you invest so much time and effort in building something just to tear it down. “

Second idea: that the Olympic Games take place

Arguably, the most effective way to prevent the “white elephant” problem at the Olympics would require a complete overhaul of the competition process.

Rather than having the games in a different city every few years, this argument goes, the games should take place in one location, allowing the organizers to reuse the facilities on multiple occasions. An obvious choice for this would be Athens. On the one hand, the games originate from Greece. In addition, given the economic situation of the country, holding the games there permanently could provide it with a source of recurring income, as people could travel to town regularly for the games.

Bent Flyvbjerg, a professor at the University of Oxford who studies megaprojects, says bringing the Olympics together in one place would also improve efficiency, as the organizers would always have another chance to make the next one more fluid and cheaper.

“If you look at events like the Tour de France which are run over and over by the same organizers, they do it very well,” he says. With the Olympics, “you always give it to beginners who have never tried it, or if they have already, it is so many decades ago that the experience that they have acquired has never tried it. is not relevant.

The International Olympic Committee is unlikely to welcome this solution. Keeping the Olympics in a single host would potentially give local organizers more control over the games than the IOC itself. It could also leave games vulnerable to political or economic issues a country is facing at any given time. Instead, to maintain the current traveling model of the Olympics, it is making reforms to allay the fears of potential hosts, after cities withdrew their offers for the 2024 games. on the resistance of citizens.

The IOC says it has worked with host cities to improve their use of their Olympic venues and reduce budgets. The 2024 games have finally gone to Paris, whose candidacy largely rests on sites already built and temporary, and plans to host events in underserved areas, for a budget of around $ 8 billion.

“It is clear that when a host city decides to only build infrastructure aligned with its long-term development goals, the benefits of the legacy are really significant,” an IOC representative told Quartz, saying that he was now looking for details four years in advance on the plans. for future use, financing and ownership. The IOC also unveiled reforms this month aimed at make accommodation cheaper, including greater flexibility when it comes to the size of the room.

There are signs that all messages about frugality are having some effect.

Beijing’s 2008 summer extravaganza cost more than $ 40 billion, at least 700 percent more than a revised budget estimate, while the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics costs totaled over $ 50 billion, 325% more than expected, although it also suffered significant cost overruns, South Korea spent $ 13 billion on the 2018 games, according to the organizing committee. This is only about 60% more than initially expected.

Tripti Lahiri contributed to this article.

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