by Glen Hamilton
Perhaps the most bedeviling Olympic legacy issue is what to do with the main stadium. Re-use can be tricky. Tokyo has hit some rather significant bumps in the road while planning to reuse their 1964 Olympic Stadium as an Olympic site in 2020. Those issues will probably be resolved before their games begin. But for all the complaining about Rio de Janeiro’s preparation for Olympic Games, one place they have already succeeded and where so many others have failed, is re-use of their main stadium. The vast Maracana stadium, home to some of the largest soccer crowds ever, will be used much the way it was before the Olympics. After renovation, it resumed its role as the home stadium for two major Rio clubs, along with a smattering of other marquee games. Alas, this is the Rio Olympics. So they found a way to mess up their stadium legacy as well. While the opening and closing ceremonies are in Maracana, Estadio Olimpico is being used for Track and Field events. It was rented to Botafogo FC since it was built in 2007.
“Rent it to a local football team” has become the solution of choice for host cities with what is ultimately a giant track stadium. Unfortunately, the biggest issue with playing in a former Olympic stadium is that they frequently are terrible places to watch soccer. From that a whole slew of issues grow out of that. Clubs that can get 60+K people regularly are much better off financially owning their own stadium anyway, and aspiring second tier clubs aren’t going to have the increased gate receipts they would hope for in stadiums that are described as “quiet” and “soul-less”. Botafogo, with a facility 15 miles away from its namesake neighborhood, may eventually be anxiously waiting for its lease to run out and move on. Not unlike Panathinaikos (Athens), Espanyol (Barcelona), and Bayern Munich.
In other news, I just realized West Ham United played their first game in London’s Olympic Stadium today. Reviews were mixed. Most appreciated the state of the art facility, but many wished they were closer to the action and were able to make more noise. Sounds familiar.