Monday, August 22, 2016

What Happens After The Excitement Of The Games?

Maracanã Stadium
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hello Everyone:

The Games of the 31st Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are officially in the history books,  Somehow, the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Organizing Committee managed to pull off an Olympics, despite dire predications, Jell-O© green dive pool water, and a fraudulent police report.  Now comes the hard part, what do you with all the leftover facilities?  This is a huge issue that every city, that hosts an Olympic (Winter or Summer) Game, faces immediately after the games.  In the case of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the McDonalds Swim built on the University of Southern California became the training facilities for the university swimming, diving, and water polo teams.  Already built stadiums, like the Rose Bowl, continued to be used by the University of California Los Angeles Football team.  However, what will become of the stadiums, arenas, training facilities, and athletes's housing now that all the excitement from the Rio Games has died down?

Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is the question that Linda Poon ponders in her CityLab article, "Rio's Plan to Transform Its Arenas After the Olympics."  What will happen to all those sparkling new facilities now that all the medals have been won and records broken is one of the big morning-after questions faced by the host cities.  For example  the Bird's Nest Stadium, built for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, requires "...$11 million in maintenance fees each year, despite sitting virtually empty."  Going back further to the 2004 Athens Games, all the venues have become aging symbols of money that could have been put to better use.  However, Rio de Janeiro is determined to forge a brighter and more sustainable future with plans to " make some of its venues transformable through what the city's mayor, Eduardo Paes, calls 'nomadic architecture.'"

Future Arena
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One example of Rio de Janeiro's plans to create a more sustainable legacy is the Future Arena.  The Future Arena was host to the handball tournament and will play host to the Paralympic goal ball.  Once the athletic competitions are in the history, the Arena will be re-purposed into four state-run schools in the adjacent communities of  Jacarepagua and Barra, and in Sãn Cristóvão, on Brazil's east coast.  Each of the school will accommodate 500 students.  Manuel Nogueira, the managing director of the United Kingdom firm AndArchitect, told Ms. Poon "The Arena was designed to be dual-purpose from the get-go."  Mr. Nogueira added,

The way everything gets moved from place to another is a bit like Lego.

Interior of Future Arena
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Lego analogy is not that far fetched as you may think.  Linda Poon writes, "The arena is made of smaller modular parts that are bolted together."  When the competitions end, the parts (roof included), the façade panels, and vertical column will be taken apart, stacked and moved to their new homes.  AECOM's Bill Hanway told Ms. Poon,

The numbing components and wiring are all designed so that you don't rip it out.

AECOM is an American firm responsible for the master plan of Barra Olympic Park, which includes the Future Arena.  Mr. Hanway added,

You unbolt it and remove it, and reapply it to these four schools.

Rendering of Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Maria Lenk Aquatic Stadium is another temporary venue will be dismantled and reconstructed as two community pools, preferably without the lime green water.  Ms. Poon writes,  "...300-acre Olympic Park, which houses a total of nine venues, will be turned into public parks and private development."  According to Next City, "The International Broadcast Center will also get a high-school dormitory."

In short, Rio de Janeiro is making use of the increasingly popular concept of "temporary architecture" in the urban landscape.  Rio is not the first city to make use of this concept.  Four years ago, the late architect Zaha Hadid designed the spectacular Aquatic Center so that the spectator stands could be removed so that the venue could be made smaller and more manageable once the Games were over.  Mr. Hanway added,

There's been a move toward temporary venues in major sporting events and the Olympics..When we started working in Rio, the mayor became ever more conscious about the cost of everything, from the permanent structures to more the more temporary ones.  He came back with a [challenge] is there is a way of reusing those materials at a modular level?

Scene from the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Olympics
One of the central themes in Rio de Janeiro's bid to host the Games was sustainability, dubbing them "Green Games for a Blue Planet."  The organizers made all sorts of ambitious pledges to alleviate traffic congestion by bolstering the public transit infrastructure, and clean up the toxic waterways.  Although, cleaning up the toxic waterways forgot about the infamous sofa that capsized an unfortunate kayaker.  Oh well, you get to everything.  Ms. Poon put it a little more articulately, "Rio has fallen short of delivering on those promises, even as the estimate price tag climbs [ed] to $12 billion."

Given all that and the litany of host cities not honoring their Olympic legacies, Jay Coakley, a retired professor who studies the sociology of sports and the impact of sporting mega-events at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, raised this point,

It looks and sounds great, but we don't know for sure if it's going to if it's going to happen...The city of so far in the hole financially that it's very tough to honor their legacy promises.  After the games are over, the organizing committee disbands, and its very difficult to know who will actually pick up the tab and do this particular change with buildings.

Athletes entering Maracaná Stadium during the Closing Ceremony
In Prof. Coakley's critique, co-authored with social researcher Doralise Lange Souza at the Federal University of Paraná University of Paraná, Brazil, Prof. Coakley writes that good intentions not withstanding, the benefits almost never reach the socially excluded populations.  We can define the excluded population as rural dwellers, particularly in the North-East, and the favela dwellers. (  He continues,

The problem is that the legacies haven't been planned for...Turning things into a school a school when you can't hire teachers, or when you haven't already started training teachers, creating the curriculum, or working with parents-unless they have things planned out and budgeted for, it isn't going to happen.

Prof. Hanway admits to the economic challenges but adds "that the nature of the private-public partnership that the Olympic was delivered as puts pressure on developers to fulfill their post-games promises."  By developing the sites, he notes, developers can recoup their initial investment.  Prof. Hanway, also credits Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes for making eduction a priority, noting that Mayor Paes's vocal support for "nomadic architecture" will also increase pressure on him to follow through on his word.  For now, Prof. Jay Coakley says, it' all up in the air.  No truer statement

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