The lead-up to Rio de Janeiros 2016 Summer Olympic Games has been rife with controversy: from criticisms of the city’s management and the impeachment of the country’s president Dilma Rousseff to reports of water contamination at the Olympic venues and the outbreak of the Zika epidemic, the first ever Olympic Games to be hosted by an emerging country have gotten off to a rough start, to say the least. But the news that some of the infrastructure that will host the games at Rio will be dismantled and repurposed into community centers and public parks offers some respite from what is an otherwise dreary picture.
Some of the buildings that are to host the Games – which Mayor Eduardo Paes calls nomadic architecture – will be dissembled after the games to be repurposed as community centers, schools, as well as public parks. According to one report, the handball venue – better known as Future Arena – will be dismantled and used to build four 500-student primary schools in the western Jacarepaguá neighborhood. Similarly, the US $38 million Olympics Aquatics Stadium will be transformed into two community swimming centers – with one in the Madureira Park and the other in Campo Grande. The Barra Olympic Park – a 300-acre property that features nine Olympic venues – will become host to public parks and private development companies after the games. The broadcast center will provide the skeleton of a dormitory at a high school for gifted athletes.
Large stadiums left behind by sporting events like the Olympics or the World Cup often become white elephants – vestiges of the Games that have no use and which often fall into disrepair. If in fact carried out, the re-purposing of the facilities would go a ways towards alleviating concerns about wasted resources in the lead-up to the games.
By constructing the buildings out of prefabricated modular parts, the venues can be dismantled and re-configured to create structures that actually benefit the local community after the Games are concluded. According to Jeff Keas, a principal at Populous – the firm that designed the 2012 London Stadium – temporary buildings have a lower carbon footprint and often cost between 50 and 80% less.
Modular pools and stadiums aren’t the only way that the Brazilian city is ensuring that the resources that go into the Games don’t go to waste. Although a more contentious project – the Olympic Village, better known as Ilha Pura, was built by local property developer Carvalho Hosken and Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht with the vision of converting the apartments into luxury condos and selling them as prime real estate after the Games. The developers hoped that the apartments would be sold for a premium of 1.5 million reals each (US $460,000) – although they have only sold 240 of the over 3,000 apartments to-date.
It would not be the first time that a city hosting the Games found a way to re-purpose the infrastructure. In the aftermath of London’s 2012 Olympics, the Olympic Village – formerly a contaminated industrial waste site – transformed into East Village. Pre-designed as a new residential district for Stratford, the village was transformed into affordable and private housing after the Games. Similarly, the Velodrome, which was a permanent venue at the 2012 Games – was transformed into the Lee Valley VeloPark, cycling center and opened in March 2014. In fact, each of the main Olympic venues that were used in the 2012 Games was designed with a plan for re-use afterwards. The master plan for the Olympic parks at both London and Rio was created by design, consulting, construction, and management firm AECOM.
In a TED talk in February 2012, just after it was announced that Rio de Janeiro had won the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Mayor Eduardo Paes spoke of the four commandments of cities, noting that cities of the future have to be environmentally-friendly; to deal with mobility and integration of its people; to be socially integrated; and to use technology to be present. He promised that by 2020, Rio would have urbanized all of its favelas, which comprise more than 20% of the city’s population of 6.4 million.
According to one report, just one year after Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup games, the stadiums that cost the country US $3 billion fell into disuse.
The Olympic Games have cost Brazil an estimated US $4.1 billion – a modest price when compared to expenditures by other countries to host the Games.