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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Burke: Olympics history is clouded with poor location choices, waste

Callum Burke, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

As you know, the Winter Olympic Games is an event wherein the world’s top winter sport athletes compete for the gold medal in their desired event. Every four years, the International Olympic Committee decides who will host the Winter Olympic Games.

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The issue is that time and time again, the countries and cities chosen to host the Winter Olympic games have faced countless issues. Even as recent as this year in Beijing, the city faced quite a few problems of their own. While diving into all these pitfalls lightly, there are quite a few other bizarre Olympic location fails in history.

Starting with the most recent Olympics in Beijing feels the most timely. Aside from the obvious issues of the COVID-19-related quarantine rules and even freezing conditions reported among Olympians, I am focusing on the specific location choice of one of the ski jumps runs, as I feel that it sums up the entire issue with this year’s games.

The ski jump at the Big Air Shougang was took place boldly in sight of an old steel mill. No longer in use, the mill still contains tall smokestacks and cooling towers that added to China’s air pollution issue for decades.

“From a hotel prison to dystopian ski jumps to war-torn stadiums, it’s clear that much more thought needs to be put into deciding on Olympic locations that work well both during and after the games.”

The only way to describe the scene is dystopian, with the Beijing Olympics logo stamped proudly against the smokestack nearest to the run behind it. But why? It makes zero sense, and given that there seems to be no true reason that they chose this place, it was a poor idea to show it off to the world.

Following this theme of terrible location choices, 1980 Lake Placid, New York, is at the top of the list. Most known for the “Miracle on Ice” — the United States men’s hockey team’s heroic win against four-time gold medal defending Soviet Union, at the time — a big problem that puts Lake Placid on the list was its village. Sounding almost fictional, the Olympic Village was legitimately built with the purpose of becoming a newly constructed prison after the games ended.

Simply put, Lake Placid had won the bid to host the 1980 Winter Olympics. The only catch: convincing the government to issue $28 million for the construction of the village and a place for Olympians to stay.

The ensuing settlement resulted in a prison being constructed to comply with the ruling that the village had to have a practical use after the conclusion of that year’s Olympic Games — a horrendous idea if you ask me, and I’m not alone in that either, as the idea faced so much opposition that a band of locals formed the group Stop the Olympic Prison.

How twisted would it be if you were considered the best downhill skier in the world, making it to the Olympics, killing it in your event and winning gold, only to then meander back to your room — a future prison cell — and lay your head to rest until the following day? That is unfathomably insane!

Speaking of insane, the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia) is a different example of a location fail, but with war being a social topic right now, it felt right to consider. Sarajevo is just one location on a list of Olympic sites that were destroyed or unused following the conclusion of that year’s Olympics.

Not even a decade after the Sarajevo Olympics, Yugoslavia became the focus point of the war for Bosnian independence, and after the three-year war officially concluded, most of the Olympic sites were abandoned or destroyed in the devastation that occurred within the country’s borders.

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It is sad to see these once-booming locations crumbling or sitting vacant, but it is the harsh reality of the world in some places.

From a hotel prison to dystopian ski jumps to war-torn stadiums, it’s clear that much more thought needs to be put into deciding on Olympic locations that work well both during and after the games. Hopefully the 2026 Olympic Games in Italy step it up and set a new standard.

Reach Callum Burke at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @burkec0621.

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