Daily Picture Show

What Happens To An Olympic City After The Olympics?

  • A man prays during Ramadan beneath handmade Olympic rings on one of the former ski jumps in Sarajevo, where the 1984 Winter Games were held.
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    A man prays during Ramadan beneath handmade Olympic rings on one of the former ski jumps in Sarajevo, where the 1984 Winter Games were held.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Grzegorz Kowalski's sculpture Reloj Solar, Mexico City. Olympics organizerscommissioned a series of public artworks from sculptors aroundthe world for the Ruta de la Amistad (Road of Friendship). Mexico City has tripled in size since the 1968 Summer Games, and the tiny road has become a major multilevel highway, the Periferico Sur.
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    Grzegorz Kowalski's sculpture Reloj Solar, Mexico City. Olympics organizers
    commissioned a series of public artworks from sculptors around
    the world for the Ruta de la Amistad (Road of Friendship). Mexico City has tripled in size since the 1968 Summer Games, and the tiny road has become a major multilevel highway, the Periferico Sur.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • The Sports Palace, Mexico City. Designed by architects Felix Candela, A. Peyri and E. Castaneda Tamborell, the Sports Palace features an iconic copper-sheathed roof. It's still used for events and concerts today, but apparently the roof leaks.
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    The Sports Palace, Mexico City. Designed by architects Felix Candela, A. Peyri and E. Castaneda Tamborell, the Sports Palace features an iconic copper-sheathed roof. It's still used for events and concerts today, but apparently the roof leaks.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Jesse Robinson Olympic Park, Compton, Los Angeles. Jesse Robinson was an advocate for local athletes in Compton. When he died, this small park off the freeway was named in his honor. The 1984 Summer Games were in Los Angeles.
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    Jesse Robinson Olympic Park, Compton, Los Angeles. Jesse Robinson was an advocate for local athletes in Compton. When he died, this small park off the freeway was named in his honor. The 1984 Summer Games were in Los Angeles.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Street art, Hackney Wick, London. The 2012 Summer Games were in London.
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    Street art, Hackney Wick, London. The 2012 Summer Games were in London.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • High Dive, Montjuic Municipal Pool, Barcelona, where the 1992 Summer Games took place. Kylie Minogue used the pool as the setting for her music video for the song "Slow."
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    High Dive, Montjuic Municipal Pool, Barcelona, where the 1992 Summer Games took place. Kylie Minogue used the pool as the setting for her music video for the song "Slow."
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Laoshan Velodrome, Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Games. This imposing structure, designed by Schuermann Architects, is still being used as a velodrome and hosts other indoor sports like fencing.
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    Laoshan Velodrome, Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Games. This imposing structure, designed by Schuermann Architects, is still being used as a velodrome and hosts other indoor sports like fencing.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Olympic Aquatic Center, Athens, built for the 1991 Mediterranean Gamesand then renovated for use during the 2004 games.
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    Olympic Aquatic Center, Athens, built for the 1991 Mediterranean Games
    and then renovated for use during the 2004 games.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Swimming pool, Olympic Village, Berlin. The 1936 Summer Games were in Berlin.
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    Swimming pool, Olympic Village, Berlin. The 1936 Summer Games were in Berlin.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Olympic Stadium, Helsinki. Built for the 1940 Olympics, which were canceled owing to World War II.
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    Olympic Stadium, Helsinki. Built for the 1940 Olympics, which were canceled owing to World War II.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Special Olympics training, Lake Placid, N.Y., the venue for the 1980 Winter Olympics.
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    Special Olympics training, Lake Placid, N.Y., the venue for the 1980 Winter Olympics.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Oval, Zamboni and Town Hall, Lake Placid, N.Y.
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    Oval, Zamboni and Town Hall, Lake Placid, N.Y.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • The Olympic Village, or housing built for the 1976 Olympic athletes in Montreal, was designed by Roger Tallibert and converted into residential apartments immediately after the games.
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    The Olympic Village, or housing built for the 1976 Olympic athletes in Montreal, was designed by Roger Tallibert and converted into residential apartments immediately after the games.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Swimming Center at the Olympic Sports Complex, Moscow, which hosted the 1980 Summer Games.
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    Swimming Center at the Olympic Sports Complex, Moscow, which hosted the 1980 Summer Games.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Bubble boy, Roses Swimming Pool, Rome. Site of water polo preliminaries during the 1960 games.
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    Bubble boy, Roses Swimming Pool, Rome. Site of water polo preliminaries during the 1960 games.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit
  • Rome, host of the 1960 games.
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    Rome, host of the 1960 games.
    Olympic City project/Courtesy of Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit

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Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit are always a little late to the games. That is: They're interested in the Olympics, but only years after they end. So when I asked if they'll be going to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, they demurred, saying something along the lines of, "Maybe someday."

"We're not for or against the Olympics," says Hustwit. "We wanted to see how all of this development has been integrated into the cities — or not. And to look at the idea of planning ... for the legacy of these facilities."

It's a natural extension of Hustwit's unofficial beat; he produced and directed the documentaries Helvetica and Urbanized — about how typography and urban planning inform our daily lives.

But it was Pack who first started exploring this idea in 2008. He was intrigued by the price tag of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"After it was over I still couldn't wrap my head around it, and so I tried to see if there was a project there," he says.

There was. Pack's first stop for The Olympic City project, as they call it, was Lake Placid, N.Y., home of the 1980 Winter Games. Since then, he and Hustwit have been to about 13 former Olympic host cities to explore the meaning of multibillion-dollar civic investments.

What they've found, of course, varies from city to city.

Barcelona, the host of the 1992 Summer Games, is often cited as an example of relatively good investment, Pack explains.

"They did 50 years of infrastructure improvements in the five years leading up to the games," he says, and to this day, many of the venues are still being used.

On the other hand, Athens, the venue for the 2004 Summer Games, has allowed many of the venues to fall into disrepair and they are fenced off from the public.

And then there was Sarajevo, where the 1984 Winter Games were held, where Pack literally had to traipse around active land mines left from the Bosnian War.

"The questions a city has to ask itself are: Is this really necessary? And who's gonna benefit from all this development? Everyone likes to have a great party," says Hustwit. "But after two weeks ... I think it's a different reality for the people who live there."

In Rio de Janiero, protesters have been making their reality known in recent days.

Like Beijing, where families were forcibly moved for Olympics construction, evictions have swept through Rio favelas, Hustwit says. And that, he adds, has polarized the city.

"Any time there's a change to the city, there are people on both sides of that event," he says. "And that's one of the things that makes cities vital — and one of the things that makes photographing in cities so interesting. They're in a constant state of change."

Pack and Hustwit joined me via Skype for a quick call as they were gearing up for an exhibition of photos from the Kickstarter-funded Olympic City project, opening today at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. The exhibition corresponds with the release of their limited-edition book.

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