Since 2007, I have been visiting the globe’s Olympic sites. Sound strange? Well, I reckon it’s a good way to see the world. Here’s how I’ve gone so far. And apologies for my awkward selfies.
The Ancient Games – Olympia, Greece
I visited Olympia back in April 2007 and had a great overnight stay here. There’s a fantastic (although terribly looked after) museum as well as the site itself which takes a good half a day to walk around. The town of Olympia is also small, friendly, and a tacky Olympic souvenir lover’s paradise.
1896 – Athens, Greece
The first modern Olympic stadium is in fantastic nick and right in downtown Athens. Even though it’s milennia newer than the ruins around it, it tends to fit in nicely with the feel of the city. I visited Athens in April 2007.
1900 – Paris, France
This one’s a bit of a non-starter. The Paris Games were a bit lacking, to put it mildly; the Games were only a side event to the World Exhibition and the events went on for over six months! Events included an underwater obstacle course and even cricket! They didn’t even use a proper stadium, mainly just parks around the city.
1904 – St Louis, USA
I haven’t properly visited the venue of the 1904 Games, which were held at Washington University in St Louis. So I’ll have to return to St Louis soon. I did visit the city back in 1991, here’s a photo of my sister looking at Busch Stadium from the Arch.
1908 – London, UK
The only city to host the Games three times unfortunately only has two Olympic stadiums. White City Stadium, the venue for the 1908 Games, has since been demolished.
1912 – Stockholm, Sweden
The Swedes were the first ones to really get the Games on the world’s stage, so their stadium is a pretty good one. I visited in May 2007 and I was able to wander in. It was in terrific condition and looks pretty loved by the Swedes even today.
1920 – Antwerp, Belgium
This stadium, unsurprisingly, was probably the biggest let-down of all the Olympic stadiums. It was a shocker, completely hidden from the rest of the city and it looked very much abandoned (even though it was apparently renovated – badly – in 2000) back when I visited in May 2007. I really didn’t expect much, as the Games were haphazardly put together in the aftermath of WWI; the diving events were even held in the city’s moat.
1924 – Paris, France
The 1924 Games were held outside central Paris, in the lacklustre suburb of Colombes. When I visited in March 2007, the nearby train station attendant wasn’t even aware that Paris had hosted the Olympic Games before, let alone that the Olympic Stadium was in fact just down the road. A bit of a sad one, unfortunately. It looks a bit like Olympic Park in Melbourne.
1928 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
I was delighted to see Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium getting used when I visited back in May 2007. Hundreds of schoolkids were utilising the field, and although the stadium was small, it looked well taken care of and had a bit of personality. It also has a small museum, but it seemed to be solely in Dutch.
* UPDATE *
I wandered back into the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium on one of my frequent Amsterdam visits in October 2012. I didn’t get a selfie, you see (we just didn’t really do that thing back in 2007) so I snapped another – awkward looking – one. The hair-flicky thing was not intentional.
1932 – Los Angeles, USA
Although I’ve visited LA on two occasions, I haven’t made it out to the Coliseum. It’s definitely on the list!
1936 – Berlin, Germany
The Berlin Games were one of the most controversial in Olympic history, and its stadium is just as interesting. I spent a good half a day walking around the stadium back in May 2007 – it’s still very much in use, hosting the final of the football World Cup in 2006.
1948 – London, UK
Wembley Stadium had just finished getting a nice renovation when I visited in February 2007. I had a wander around the grounds and gave the impressive-looking stadium a big thumb’s up.
1952 – Helsinki, Finland
I didn’t expect much from Helsinki (I put it in the same basket with Antwerp, originally) but it sure delighted. I went up the tower alongside the stadium which gave a great view of the very green city. I even stayed in a hostel inside the stadium during my visit in June 2007. Now, how’s that for novelty value alone?
1956 – Melbourne, Australia
Of course, the MCG has a huge soft spot for me and I don’t think you can beat it in terms of a massive, still-used and much-loved stadium. I am perhaps a bit biased, but I love my home city and our love of sport is reflected in our beloved MCG.
1960 – Rome, Italy
Rome’s Olympic stadium was the first in which I saw a sports event during my travels. During my visit in April 2007, I watched AS Roma defeat Sampdoria, and I had a ball. The stadium was impressive, albeit underused, with Roman-y looking statues dotted throughout.
1964 – Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo was my first stop on my solo backpacking adventure in February 2007, and I made sure I visited their Olympic Stadium. It was a bit of a tricky one to find, and has obviously seen better days, but the real highlight is the museum inside the stadium. The staff were wonderful, leading me into the stadium and letting me hold all of the Olympic torches. I had a great afternoon.
1968 – Mexico City, Mexico
I haven’t yet been to Mexico but it’s on the list!
1972 – Munich, Germany
Munich’s Olympic Stadium is one of the best in terms of how well-preserved it is, and how integrated it is in the city. I checked it all out back in May 2007. It’s set in a park full of beer gardens and lakes, and the stadium itself looks as if it could have been built yesterday. If you’re tired of walking around it, you can even abseil from the roof to the turf.
1976 – Montreal, Canada
Technically, I have been to the site of the 1976 Games, I’ve even been inside the venues. Unfortunately though, I have little recollection of this as I was all of six at the time. I’m not ticking it off by any means, so it can still remain on my list. The below pic, however, is of my aunty in front of the stadium, who was with me during the trip.
1980 – Moscow, USSR
I originally booked my plane ticket to Helsinki as a way of getting over to Moscow by train, but visas were too complicated to arrange on the road so I instead spent the time in Latvia and Estonia. Moscow is therefore still on my list. My cap has however been there.
1984 – Los Angeles, USA
The Coliseum hosted both the 1932 and 1984 Games, and it’s still on my list.
1988 – Seoul, South Korea
Visiting Seoul was one of my biggest challenges (I went via ferry from Japan) but very much worth it – I loved the city. The stadium and its museum were two metro stations apart from one another, and the humidity when I visited in July 2008 hovered at around the 95 per cent mark. I didn’t linger around the stadium, therefore, and spent a lovely afternoon inside the quirky museum.
1992 – Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world and its Olympic precinct didn’t disappoint. The only thing that did was the fact that its museum and the inside of the stadium, back in March 2007, were closed for renovations. Thankfully, the Montjuic area was worth a wander.
* UPDATE *
I went back to Barcelona’s stadium precinct in August 2012 and lo and behold, both the museum and the stadium were open!
1996 – Atlanta, USA
I’m going to need to plan some sort of LA – Mexico City – Atlanta trip to get things going in southern North America!
2000 – Sydney, Australia
This was the Olympics where I really fell in love with it all. My family went up to see the Games and I had an absolute ball, vowing to see all of the world’s Olympic sites. I’m getting there!
2004 – Athens, Greece
Even though the Athens Olympic site is only eight years old, it’s in a sorry state. When I visited in April 2007, only three years after it was held, temporary fencing was falling down, footpaths were cracked and rubbish was everywhere. Stick to the 1896 site – the 2004 site reminds you of Greece’s current woes a little too much.
2008 – Beijing, China
The most impressive of the past Olympic sites is also the newest. The Bird’s Nest is amazing – completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I’ve seen my fair share of stadiums. I visited in February 2008 when the stadium was nearly finished, and then again in January 2011 when the stadium had been temporarily converted into an icerink. As you do, but I was happy to see it being used.
2012 – London, United Kingdom
The 2012 Games were the second I visited in the flesh after Sydney. I had an absolute ball, seeing the judo, hockey, basketball, handball, diving and athletics inside the surprisingly magnificent stadium.