10 old Olympics venues you can still visit
ANCIENT OLYMPIA ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
Mid Sixth-Century BC Games We wouldn’t have the Olympics without the Greeks, and their country is still home to ruins of some of the earliest game sites. Among the remnants of this ancient stadium, you can still see a nearly 700-foot-track, as well as the embankments where the spectators sat. And, despite its age, the site is still worthy of the games: For the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the ancient stadium was the site of the shot put event.
Summer 1896 In addition to inventing the Olympics, Greece also held the first modern version in 1896, during which this stadium—constructed in 329 BC—showcased all the athletic, gymnastic, wrestling, and weightlifting events. The site is also called “Kallimarmaro,” meaning “made of fine marble,” and is the finishing point for the contemporary marathon.
Los Angeles, USA
LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM AND THE ROSE BOWL STADIUM
Summer 1932 The Depression in full swing during the summer of 1932, so Los Angeles had to look to preexisting venues to house its Olympic events. Thankfully, the city already had some impressive arenas, incuding the Olympic Stadium (now the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum), which had been home to the USC Trojans football team since 1923. During the Olympics, equestrian, gymnastic, and field hockey games were held here; since then, it’s the only stadium to have hosted the Olympics—two, in fact, in 1932 and 1984—two Super Bowls, and the World Series. The Rose Bowl is another 1932 relic; it hosted cycling events that summer, and it still serves as a focal point every New Year’s day as the site of the Rose Bowl football game. Both arenas are now National Historic Landmarks.
Winter 1952 When the city of Oslo bought a complex that was once an old brick works, it never could have guessed that more than 60 world records would be set on the site. The stadium held the figure-skating and speed-skating events during the winter Olympics of ’52, and continued to hold record-setting skating and track-and-field competitions afterward. The stadium even made the list top 20 venues of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated—one of only four outside of the United States. The original structure was demolished and a new stadium erected in 2005, and it continues to be used for athletic events.
Summer 1952 Not all sports arenas continue to host athletic events once the torch has left town. After the 1952 summer Olympics in Helsinki, the city repurposed some of its sports complexes into museums. The Olympic Stadium is now the Sports Museum of Finland (pictured) and the Tennis Palace is an exhibition space for the Helsinki City Art Museum as well as a movie theater.
MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND
Summer 1956 The MCG—or just "the ‘G" if you’re among the initiated—was built in 1853 and was pressed into Olympic service more than a century later. During the games, athletic, hockey, soccer, and baseball events were scheduled here, but, as its name suggests, the site is internationally renowned as one of the most famous cricket venues in the world. The stadium is also home to the National Sports Museum, where you can see lifelike, 3-D holograms of cricket player Shane Warne and football star James Hird.
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia [Now Bosnia and Herzegovina]
ZETRA ICE HALL
Winter 1984 Recently, the Zetra Ice Hall, which was used for hockey and skating events in the 1984 winter Olympics, was renamed the Olympic Hall Juan Antonio Samaranch, and with good reason. The stadium was not only built when Samaranch was president of the International Olympic Committee, he was instrumental in rebuilding it after it was nearly destroyed in the country’s civil war. (During the conflict, the stadium was used as a mortuary.) The arena is now a seven-acre, multi-use sports complex and Olympic museum.
CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC STADIUM
Summer 1996 Today, the venue that was built to host the track and field events at the 1996 summer Olympics is better known as Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. To transform the Olympic-sized stadium into an all-grass, baseball-only facility, 35,000 seats were removed, along with part of the track and field turf. Year-round, one-hour tours take you past all of the park’s highlights, including the memorabilia in the Braves Museum and Hall of Fame, the entertainment-filled pavilion Grand Entry Plaza, and the Coca-Cola Sky Field, a picnic area atop the outfield roof that’s presided over by a 38-foot tall Coke bottle made of baseball equipment.
ESTADI OLIMPIC DE MONTJUIC
Summer 1992 Originally built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, the Estadi's impressive stone façade was preserved when the stadium was remodeled to hold the athletic events for the 1992 summer Olympics. Today, its name has changed to the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, but it still has the original 1929 structure, designed by architect Pere Domenech i Roura. It’s also still used as a venue for sporting events—or Bruce Springsteen concerts, if he happens to be in town (like he was on May 17 and 18).
BEIJING NATIONAL STADIUM
China debuted many awe-inspiring venues for the summer 2008 games, but none more impressive than the 91,000-capacity Beijing National Stadium also known as the “Bird’s Nest.” It’s been reported that the intricate pattern of the steel beams, inspired by Chinese pottery, forms the world’s largest enclosed structure. Today, not only can you take a tour, traversing elevated walkways to best view the steel-frame structure of the stadium, you can also make snow angels in it; in the winter, the stadium hosts a festival with manmade snow.