When Icons Crumble—The Troubled Legacy of Olympic Design

doi:10.1093/jdh/eps021 Journal of Design History Vol. 25 No. 3

Even Smith Wergeland
The idea of design legacy has been a vital force in London’s bid and planning for the 2012 Olympics. In this article I engage critically with this idea by investigating the Games that are currently being framed as the polar opposite to London 2012, namely the 2004 Athens Olympics. My primary concern is to analyse the effects of Olympic design in decline, using the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (the OAKA) as the focal point of the study. Whereas legacy can apply to a range of different areas, the specific focus of this article is to study the legacy of the architectural design. Drawing on Leonardo Benevolo’s work on modernist architecture, I argue that the derelict state of the OAKA venues causes a radical shift in our perception of them, visually as well as conceptually. In a post-Olympic state, the architectural design features are robbed of the context that initiated them and, as a consequence, appear to us only as vacant objects, emptied of referential meaning and bereft of their previous iconic value. This scenario, I argue, might also become relevant in future conceptions of London 2012, which already struggles to stay true to its initial emphasis on legacy. Keywords: architectural theory—architecture—Athens 2004—derelict venues—Greece— legacy—London—London 2012—Olympic design—Santiago Calatrava

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The idea of design legacy has been an important driving force in London’s preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In Designing for Legacy, the 2012 London Olympic Delivery Authority (the ODA) state that ‘We are confident that we will provide a stunning backdrop to the Games and a design legacy for East London that will endure long after the Olympic and Paralympic Torches have been extinguished.’1 However, contrary to the optimism of the ODA, host cities often find themselves unable to maintain the facilities after the events are over. In this article I look at Olympic design against this particular background, using the 2004 Athens Olympics as the primary example in a discussion on what happens when Olympic design falls into decline. More precisely, I  investigate the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (the Olimpiako Athlitiko Kentro Athinon or OAKA) with particular focus on the post-Olympic condition [1]. In recent years, as several commentators have warned the London 2012 organizers of the potential pitfalls of being an Olympic host, Athens 2004 has commonly been referred to as an utter failure in terms of legacy issues:
A staggering 21 out of 22 venues lie abandoned since an event lasting just three weeks was held, and the magnificent stadiums are now over-run with rubbish and weeds. But the most striking ‘legacy’ has been the huge sums spent—and wasted—on venues to hold sports with little following in Greece. And yet the madness does not end there: annual ‘maintenance’ of the empty sites has cost almost £500million since the event.2

This way, Athens 2004 has surfaced as a natural point of reference in current debates on the design legacy of London 2012. But there are many differences between Greece

© The Author [2012]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved. Advance Access publication 28 July 2012.


as they did in Athens. London already had a range of world-class arenas when they were handed the Olympics. In both cases. whilst preparations for 2012 have been influenced by the bombing of the London Underground in 2005.oxfordjournals. In London. and in the ways in which Athens and London have handled the Olympic preparations. Photo by Anestis Symeonidis (December 2010). which resulted in the quadrupling of the total spending on security. Athens 2004 was deeply affected by 9/11. While the UK has the third largest population in Europe. there are some similarities as well. the Olympic budgets are similar. but even a popular sport like football has been unable to fill the Olympic Stadium after the Olympics. the organizers had to solve unexpected security issues. Athens had limited experience when the city embarked on many ambitious renewal schemes ahead of the Olympics. the smallest nation to host the Games since Finland in 1952. Reproduced with permission from Anestis Symeonidis Downloaded from http://jdh. The UK is a keen spectator sporting nation where sporting events tend to draw large crowds. cuts in public spending and wage restraints to realign its economy ahead of the Games.3 Greece also has a sporting culture of significance.6 Furthermore. Greece introduced increased taxes. While London and Athens are different in many ways culturally. The organizers could therefore concentrate on staging new venues rather than refurbishing outmoded facilities. Reuse could have been advantageous to Athens. in the sense that they are primarily split between state and city agencies.5 In comparison. geographically and socio-economically. however. as this is the common way of dealing with Olympic budgets.7 This is not an unsurprising link.org/ by guest on August 23. 2012 and the UK.Fig 1. Hosting the Olympics is always going to be an extra strain for a small economy. when they took on the 2004 Games. an immense scope compared to London’s focus on East London. with the privatized model for the 1984 Los Even Smith Wergeland 305 . Greece was.  Unwanted symbols and unruly vegetation at the OAKA. extra taxes have been put on households to enhance the Olympic revenue.4 The urban renewal plans for Athens 2004 included large parts of the city and the wider Attica region. and in the event the constant discoveries of archaeological finds meant that the process of finalizing the arenas was time-consuming beyond anything London has had to cope with. London had fresh expertise from regeneration projects such as the Docklands. especially since Athens did not need another huge sports complex in addition to the OAKA. Refurbishing is often expensive.

who was commissioned to do the overall planning of the OAKA in 2001. namely that of a ‘monumental memorial’. Curtis applies this concept to the architectural heritage of Nazi Germany.8 London 2012 is facing the same challenge. I base my exploration of these facilities on my own field work undertaken on site in 2006 and studies of recent literature and media reports. Photo by Barbara Burg & Oliver Schuh (2004).11 This factor alone calls for a comparative discussion of Athens and London. 2012 Fig 2. R. because the London budget is spread across many more agencies in comparison with that of Athens. L. and Our Promise for 2012.9 The two Olympiads are further connected because Athens 2004 has been serving as an important backdrop for discussions of London 2012.oxfordjournals. ‘Instant monumentality’ also implies another element.  Athens Olympic Stadium. and I will be exploring the grounds on which this distinction is being made. and some of the adjoining projects developed by Calatrava. this approach was woven into the Olympic tradition via the Berlin 1936 Olympics. which has to do with the commemorative qualities of architecture.13 a leaflet published by the Downloaded from http://jdh. only with a greater level of complexity. Ross has pointed out. As the British economist John F. I appropriate the term ‘Olympic legacy’ from two key texts on London 2012: the aforementioned Designing for Legacy. the organizers have continued to promote London 2012 as an opposite to Athens. Reproduced with permission from Palladium Photodesign 306 When Icons Crumble .12 which is often a hallmark of Olympic facilities. the split budget was a major concern throughout the planning of Athens 2004. Olympic design and its legacies I approach the concept of Olympic design from an angle outlined by William J. The primary target of this analysis is the Athens Olympic Stadium [2].Angeles Olympics being a notable exception. ‘Four years before the first starting pistol has been fired for London 2012. Both these meanings of the concept apply to the architectural design created for Athens 2004 by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. As Andrew Malone of The Daily Mail wrote in 2008.10 In spite of such comments. with particular emphasis on the staging of political mass rallies in which large-scale architecture would heighten the dramatic effect. Curtis. This distinction is becoming increasingly difficult to define in the wake of economic turbulence in Britain and its impact on the Olympic budgets.org/ by guest on August 23. who uses the term ‘instant monumentality’ to explain the characteristics and rhetorical effects of architecture of an overwhelming scale. the main arena of the Games. there are echoes of Athens’.

as Graeme Evans argues. attention must be directed at the facilities themselves. his duty was to design state-of-the art sports venues that would also have to reflect the rich cultural history of Greece. the organizers wanted to make a statement about Greek national identity and forge a new image of what Greece might represent in the twenty-first century. These publications propose a wide set of legacy criteria. such as the Velodrome. Beijing. including the overall objective of regenerating East London. Several of these. Hence. were garnished with Calatrava’s trademark design features [3]: spectacular hovering Fig 3. which is crucial to the organizers’ ambition of creating memorable. adaptable.14 The architectural design legacy of London 2012 is based on the premise of avoiding the large scale monumental approach that marks the Olympic venues in Athens and the most recent host city. the initiation of community projects and the creation of job opportunities. 2012 Athens 2004: Bringing it all back home? When Calatrava was handed the task of transforming a twenty-year old sports complex in Athens into an Olympic Park. © David Smith Even Smith Wergeland 307 .oxfordjournals. I will limit my analysis to the Olympic Park. Photo by David Smith (January 2006). which aims to highlight the peculiar circumstances that occur when large scale Olympic architecture falls into disrepair. as the Olympic Park in Stratford now has moved from vision to reality. and specific initiatives such as the greening of Stratford. While these overarching ambitions certainly are instrumental to London’s legacy bid. In addition. the facilitation of sustainable living. Media and Sport in 2007.15 However. This backdrop forms the lens of my reading of Athens 2004. London 2012 is supposedly more focused on after-effects than the event itself. reusable and inclusive arenas with ‘a real sense of place after the Games’.16 Calatrava approached this complicated brief by introducing a new layout for the sports complex and by re-designing all the existing buildings.Department for Culture. Downloaded from http://jdh.org/ by guest on August 23. Reproduced with permission from David Smith.  The Athens Olympic Velodrome.

The functional aspects of the Plaza of Nations adhere to the principles of the Agora. the elevations are Byzantine. a place of social gathering in the cities of Ancient Greece. it was provided with a new monumental outlook for the Olympics. Once a simple concrete bowl.org/ by guest on August 23. Downloaded from http://jdh. occasionally used for concerts and other cultural events. he explained that ‘The plan is classical. a 72. when the stadium was set ablaze with light shows. Reproduced with permission from Palladium Photodesign 308 When Icons Crumble . sound and video projections. however.roofs held together by sophisticated cable systems. its framework partly hidden below ground level. the ultimate provider of Curtis’s ‘instant monumentality’. a rhetorical meaning.17 It is possible to read the OAKA in accordance with Calatrava’s design motto. especially in the opening and closing ceremonies. and the spirit is Mediterranean’. They were the focal points of the multimedia events that took place during the Olympics. he was hailed for adding another prestigious work to his impressive portfolio. A  hanging roof made from laminated glass and polycarbonate. kept in check by two gigantic steel arches. was lifted into position just in time for the opening ceremony. as it were. a semi-circular access route for pedestrians. the arches certify a commemorative meaning and. Calatrava even took the word Agora to name one of the most elaborate design elements of the OAKA [4]. went from being a symbol of poor planning to a proud icon of the Games. The stadium epitomizes Calatrava’s redesign of the complex and the organizers’ quest for a signature look for the Games. is reminiscent of the layout of an ancient Greek theatre. The symmetrical shape of its main square. the Plaza of Nations. it was never his intention to stamp his own signature on the project.000 capacity stadium for football and athletics. As the most potent architectural trademark of the stadium.oxfordjournals. The dominant feature of the OAKA is the Athens Olympic Stadium. as the steel arches were nicknamed when the construction workers struggled to erect them. 2012 Fig 4.  The OAKA Agora pathway. Photo by Barbara Burg & Oliver Schuh (2004). As for Calatrava. massive but slender-looking supporting columns and predominantly white surfaces with a slick finish. The ‘White Elephants’. According to the architect himself. When asked about the design strategy for OAKA.

when the whole world applauded a smooth-running spectacle. the architectural framework of a public building in ancient Greek cities. but. which served as a big rally for modernist architects to display their latest ideas in a 1:1 scale. which are made visible through certain recurring colours: blue. Every arena fulfils a highly specific functional task. and partly survives as a permanent built environment. A representative example is the 1927 Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart. But in an abstract version such as this. perhaps. Critical post-Olympic reports began to emerge in 2005. Calatrava refers to the array of arches. but there is nevertheless reason to argue that it relies on distinct derivations from certain modes of modernist architecture. The four entrances to the OAKA are based on the concept of the Stoa. when considered in relation to the implied Mediterranean elements. ochre and white. The whiteness of the polished surfaces and the stripped-down columns mimic aspects of Le Corbusier’s work in the 1920s. columns and vaults that dominate the elevated layers of his design. namely the sixteen days of the Olympics. The act of designing a set of grand scale architectural entities which are connected by their temporal nature and conceptual equality gives rise to associations with the great exhibitions of modernist architecture in the 1920s. for all its postmodern vibrancy and frequent referencing of Greek cultural history. when Athens basked in the glory of having hosted what many commentators lauded as a flawless Olympics. It is not entirely true that no such plans had been discussed. 2012 The aftermath Due to rather demanding circumstances—Calatrava only had three years to complete the Olympic Park and a series of strikes and other interruptions added more misery to the hastened operation19—the OAKA was completed just ahead of the Opening Ceremony on 13 August 2004. One could say that most sports arenas are characterized by a strict emphasis on functionality.20 The economic excess was never a big issue during the Olympics. Gold argues in her Even Smith Wergeland 309 . Downloaded from http://jdh.18 The modernist idiom is also quite evident when the purpose of the OAKA is taken into consideration. or in the immediate aftermath. These colours are deeply embedded in the Mediterranean vernacular that Calatrava studied early in his career. The presence of Byzantine architecture is more elusive. and turned abstractions of classical Greek temples into modernist schemes. when he perfected the idea of the ‘White Cube’.oxfordjournals. they could easily refer to other architectural traditions in which such elements are important. and therefore that the OAKA is no different from the rest. The intended traces of Byzantine architecture become more evident. and it was not the only arena that failed to comply with pre-Olympic financial calculations. the Olympic Stadium had expanded three times beyond the original budget. But while the architecture on display during the Weissenhofsiedlung became a vehicle for long-lasting effects. Together these elements make up a kind of postmodern design package: the figurative language of different historical architectures combined with Calatrava’s proto-futuristic shapes.covered with 99 steel arches. By ‘Byzantine elevation’. However. But the postscript of the Games has revealed a significant amount of problems connected with the OAKA. It was designed with a very precise time period in mind. when the Greek media started to question the lack of maintenance plans.org/ by guest on August 23. as Margaret M. the OAKA lost its momentum after the Olympics were over. there is reason to argue that the real striking force of the OAKA design is the strong reliance on modernist design principles. resembling a modernist system of zonal planning. On completion.

shifting attention more directly over to the OAKA. the British journalist Robert Mendick brought attention to just how bad the conditions were only five years after the Games: ‘A diving pool with four inches of stagnant water. Photo by the author (May 2006) 310 When Icons Crumble . Even the Olympic Stadium.oxfordjournals. In 2009. while also enquiring about the apparent lack of revenue increase for the city of Athens. the general level of activity is certainly low for a sporting facility of this size. She also claimed that the economy of the city had actually survived the extra expenditure. Greek politicians and officials kept defending Athens 2004.org/ by guest on August 23. which is still being used for football and the occasional stadium concert. The international press soon entered the field as well.22 Despite this surge of critical comments. as the planning of London 2012 entered a critical stage.21 Journalists were also beginning to criticize the relentless money-spending ahead of the Games.  OAKA is crumbling.23 This was. a proper strategy for subsequent use never materialized.’24 Other reports were even more dismissive of the OAKA. brand new stadia mothballed and derelict.analysis of the Games.26 And while one could certainly question the accuracy of the negative reports concerning Athens. an Olympic complex all but abandoned and strewn with litter and graffiti—this is the legacy from the Athens Olympics in 2004. The official messages only seemed to generate even fiercer debates. Dora Bakoyannis. pointing out the huge amount of money spent on what quickly developed into a wasteland of derelict architecture and spaces full of rubbish and weed.25 This goes for the Swimming Pools and the tubular walkway in particular [5 & 6]. written in 2008. backed the Olympics by calling attention to the infrastructural improvements that were carried out in Athens and the general refurbishment of the central area. Brown plaque is disturbing the shiny whiteness of the walkway. and one has to take into account that the dramatic collapse of the Greek economy was yet to come. has been criticized for its dirty seat backs and stained walkways [8]. the Mayor of Athens during the Games. 2012 Fig 5. however.27 Downloaded from http://jdh. but the Plaza of Nations has also felt the impact of the post-Olympic decline [7].

Reproduced with permission from Anestis Symeonidis Even Smith Wergeland 311 .  The tubular walkway is littered with graffiti. the gigantic sculpture at OAKA.oxfordjournals. Photo by Anestis Symeonidis (December 2010). from the series ‘Athens 2004 Olympics—Dead Olympic Facilities’. Reproduced with permission from Nikos Daniilidis Downloaded from http://jdh.org/ by guest on August 23. 2012 Fig 7.  The Nation Wall.Fig 6. has been reduced to a graffiti platform. Photo by Nikos Daniilidis (2012).

Fig 8. In the course of his two-volume book on modernist architecture.org/ by guest on August 23. though cared for equally carefully. like the remains of ancient buildings. Nikos Daniilidis (2012). the Bauhaus building has certainly aged worse than the Fagus factory. and it has no physical fascination. For this reason. This condition. 2012 The White Cube in decay While these reports were paying close attention to the Olympic facilities.28 Benevolo had become fascinated with the topic of architecture and maintenance. ravaged by weather and lack of proper care. Storia dell’architettura moderna. they somehow failed to address the fundamental changes with regards to the architectural design. argues Benevolo. independently of men. calls for a different interpretation of them. To underline this perspective Benevolo presents images in which these icons are displayed in run-down states. it is not a ruin. to all intents and purposes the Bauhaus no longer exists. The book looks beyond the iconic presentation of modernist masterpieces such as the Bauhaus Building in Dessau. but must be made to last with appropriate processes.oxfordjournals.  The stairs of the Olympic Stadium are damaged by moisture. but this consequence must be seen in relation to the new concept of architectural values.29 When Icons Crumble 312 . How can we engage with this question at a more specific level? Having previously outlined the distinctly modernist characteristics of Calatrava’s work in Athens. then architectural products have value in relation to the life lived in them and do not last like natural objects. now that the original life of the place had been dispersed and that the work is reduced to a pathetic heap of shattered walls and door and window frames. because they rely on iconic qualities produced by materials that have lost their visual seductiveness: This type of finish [white plaster] emphasized problems of maintenance and. and questions the fact that they are always presented in a perfect condition when appearing in publications. If architecture is not to restrict itself entirely to representing the aspirations of society but is to contribute to realizing them. I find the work of Leonardo Benevolo to be an interesting starting point of this enquiry. Reproduced with permission from Nikos Daniilidis Downloaded from http://jdh.

it is never a full-scale re-enactment of the Olympic spectacles for which the OAKA was designed. According to Tournikiotis. In a study on the spatial impacts of sports facilities. occupy the Plaza of Nations prior to matches. The OAKA is designed to accommodate 300. are signified by individual elements and describable characteristics. one needs to investigate the aspect of temporariness more closely. it alludes to the nature of an architectural pavilion which. physical way. it has become a general place with no discernible qualities. since its true life has vanished. in the case of the OAKA. where the removal of the Olympic context has reduced it to a collection of generic sports facilities. The Olympic buildings still remain.This argument is investigated in Panayotis Tournikiotis’s critical reading of Benevolo in The Historiography of Modern Architecture. ‘One could go as far as to say that the Bauhaus building no longer exists. Moreover. e.34 a term he coined to frame the loss of place identity that might occur at certain sites.30 Reflecting on Benevolo’s interpretation of the Bauhaus Building. To explain this shift in character. It is however important to point out that Augé’s idea of ‘non-places’ has been subject to strong criticism over the past years. provided that one accepts that analogy.’31 OAKA and the post-Olympic emptiness Can one really claim that the OAKA disappeared after the 2004 Olympics were over? This would be a probable conclusion if we are to take Benevolo’s and Tournikiotis’s verdicts seriously. Augé’s theory certainly captures some of the loss of meaning that causes the post-Olympic OAKA to be experienced as void and empty. for example when fans of AEK Athens F. When dealing with the question of loss and lack of physical fascination. nomadic concept. not as straightforward as they seem to suggest. when a high level of mobility is in operation. as Kayser Nielsen calls it.35 Cresswell highlights the distinct practices that apply to a place like Schiphol. practices that mark out this airport as different to others. the Barcelona pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. but they somehow serve Even Smith Wergeland Downloaded from http://jdh. the lifelessness of a place where something exciting has taken place but is emphatically over. Tournikiotis confirms the unravelling of the myth of the White Cube as a highly relevant perspective in cases where buildings have undergone noticeable changes. They are not lost in a concrete.C. unlike some of the well-known architectural pavilions of the past. for instance. So the actual reason for the sense of loss lies somewhere else. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.org/ by guest on August 23. The post-Olympic mode gets nowhere close to replicating the scale and visual extravaganza of the Olympic events. With the Olympics being a very mobile. Tim Cresswell.33 relates to Marc Augé’s theory of ‘non-places’. especially places marked by quick transfers. Niels Kayser Nielsen uses the term ‘topocide’ to describe places that for various reasons have been robbed of their place identity.000 people and to host grand scenarios. e. Even on occasions when the facilities are being used. But with regards to the OAKA.g. none of the elements of the OAKA have been removed from their original place. one could turn to a set of scholarly conceptions of the cultural production of place. fuels the perception of the OAKA as a distinctly temporary concept. The site does have the characteristics of a closed exhibition. When walking the post-Olympic version of the OAKA one gets the feeling of venturing into a state of lifelessness. The matter is.32 This is applicable to the OAKA. 2012 313 . it is difficult to claim that the current site performs any kind of practice that could reinvent the Olympic mode. This ‘state of placelessness’.g. has been countering Augé’s theory by revealing how even the most extreme travelling spaces.oxfordjournals. however. But.

But without this inside knowledge of his architectural philosophy. towards which Benevolo’s work points. or wish. It has to be noted. empty pools and piles of rubbish completing the picture it has become increasingly difficult to think of white as an eternal presence on site [9].36 the white is a result of Calatrava’s effort at trying to integrate Mediterranean impulses in his architectural practice. it points at obvious continuities in Calatrava’s portfolio rather than subtle continuities within Greek cultural history. And when Olympic design is bereft of its intended context. wild-growing vegetation. fuelled by the unfortunate fate of the Greek economy.org/ by guest on August 23. A widespread use of white has been a key factor throughout Calatrava’s career as an architect. it immediately loses its potential as a timeless object and becomes. dated. one could certainly question the idea of ‘white time’ in light of Benevolo’s observations on how vulnerable white is when applied to the exterior of a building. no proper document for later use was ever provided. however.oxfordjournals. colours and symbols imbedded in Calatrava’s design are too dependent on the Olympic context to have a valuable afterlife. is the primary reason why the OAKA never experienced a successful transition from Olympic to post-Olympic mode. The derelict condition challenges OAKA’s position as the icon of the Athens games. Athens 2004 never had a legacy company. A hollow and vacant monumentality is all that is left. is the apparent lack of physical attraction. that opinions on architecture often change When Icons Crumble Downloaded from http://jdh. ‘Few questioned the similarities between the architect’s work in Greece and the rest of his buildings throughout the world’. According to Alexander Tzonis. especially since no consistent alternative of cultural production has emerged. 2012 314 . With unruly. The architecture reminds us that the Olympics are not forever. More than anything else. Calatrava’s concept therefore becomes rather paradoxical when the general downfall of OAKA is considered. the referential qualities of the design were so strongly connected to the Olympic mode that the current site appears emptied of meaning. Jilly Traganou uses the label ‘the Rhetoric of Mediterraneanism’ to capture this aspect of Calatrava’s architecture. however. like London does (the Olympic Park Legacy Company).to amplify the loss and underline the irreversible fact that the Olympics will probably never return.39 This factor.38 she writes in her analysis of the convincing visual rhetoric at work in Calatrava’s OAKA project. A paler shade of white The other aspect of this. As several critics have revealed. to revive the Games after they are over. But in the case of OAKA. instead. The materials. and the facilities at the OAKA have been left to their own devices. drawn from a belief in the universal and eternal qualities of the colour white. it is very difficult to differentiate the Mediterranean from the general imprint of his work. or rather the reduction in value. What used to be a spectrum of crisp white surfaces was in fact reduced to a garish mixture of green. This is connected with Benevolo’s thoughts about the value. the author of two books on Calatrava’s work. Calatrava’s work at the OAKA is self-referential. Out of this fascination with the Mediterranean vernacular came the concept of ‘white time’. which whiteness represents in modernist architectural design. brown and grey shortly after the Olympics. the intended references to the Mediterranean become ambiguous. With this in mind. Few Olympic hosts would ever expect. Also.37 Calatrava made use of this recipe to develop his personal architectural brand in which the Mediterranean vernacular white became a token of continuity independent of place and context. The problem is that the OAKA was not really planned and designed for a life after the Olympics.

and the overwhelming scale is bound to leave a vast range of facilities in constant need of maintenance. The Olympics are expensive and colossal by the nature of the concept and. And even if the necessary resources are available. The Games are a short-lived presence that ignites an instant monumentality. There are. Conclusion: looking to London As the architectural icons of the OAKA have crumbled in parallel with the Greek economy.Fig 9. specific issues that make it particularly difficult for Olympic hosts to manage this. as Curtis calls it. 2012 over time. Photo by the author (May 2006) Downloaded from http://jdh. The heavy reliance on vulnerable elements like smooth surfaces and the cultural and visual qualities of the white colour makes the demise of Athens 2004 more obvious and articulate than in any other Olympic example. functionally and visually demanding beyond most other urban design projects. It is therefore my view that the architecture must be regarded as quintessential in our understanding of the Athens 2004 legacy.40 Due to a challenging build-up to the Olympics and a lack of preparation of the Olympic site for subsequent use. In some cases.org/ by guest on August 23. the specifics of the Olympic design strengthen the validity of this interpretation. According to some reports. consequently. Discoloration of the broken OAKA tiles. but it does represent the physical. visual and symbolical manifestation of it. the design legacy of Athens 2004 remains a troubled topic. however. their ghost-like presence has become more bleak and problematic with every passing year. the citizens of Greece are still footing some of the bill for the Games. there will always be a longing after the great event that enabled these structures. This is precisely why London 2012 has been Even Smith Wergeland 315 . A future rejuvenation of the OAKA might counter the current negative reception. The architecture is not the direct cause of the site’s downfall.  OAKA is crumbling.oxfordjournals. problematic projects find justice several years after their inauguration. In the case of Athens 2004.

‘Low Rise Intensities’. there is reason to claim that many of the analytical parameters that apply to Athens 2004 will be relevant for the post-Olympic mode in London. M. B. perhaps. and one might argue that these projects are the true legacy of the games. who have questioned whether the design legacy really is achievable. M. the city is still stuck with a sports complex of some scale. By this recent turn of events. His ongoing thesis. in Routes. Even Smith Wergeland is a doctoral candidate at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design . the symbolic effect of this u-turn is altogether significant. Brenna.41 Will all the promises be fulfilled once the Olympics are over and the venues are handed over to other agents? It is symptomatic. Norway. Farnham. demonstrates that the legacy rests quite heavily on the fate of the arenas. Ashgate. in Green Oslo. for example the new metro lines and the new airport. the London Olympic Stadium might not be as different to the one in Athens after all. 2013 (forthcoming).no Born in Stavanger. The new Olympic Stadium was planned and built as a temporary large scale arena. B.oxfordjournals. explores the motorway aesthetics at play in post-war architecture. There is a facility on the site for sending e-mail responses to the editorial board and other readers. no. Downloaded from http://jdh. please go to the journal website on http://jdh. Larsen (eds). Røe (eds). But the post-Olympic reception. Luccarelli & P. Farnham.oxfordjournals. in 1981. but as West Ham United have swooped to claim it. As more and more of the wider London legacy seems to falter. I would argue. Wergeland’s research interests include urban mobility. As much as it remains speculation for now. 2012 316 When Icons Crumble . K.42 the main complex will therefore be of even greater importance. Even if the post-Olympic owners choose to maintain the stadium as a resource for the people of Stratford. Roads and Landscapes. Instead of going into recycling.seeking to facilitate the Olympic Park by means of down-scaling. My critical engagement with the OAKA shows. ‘From Utopia to Reality—the Motorway as a Work of Art’. 2011. 1. old decisions are about to be overturned. Theory and History. London 2012 is currently under close scrutiny from media and experts. If you have any comments to make in relation to this article.wergeland@aho. Given the current state of the British economy. that the centrepiece of London’s down-scaling strategy may be reversed. Athens 2004 did include a run of projects that have been perceived as successful. Even Smith Wergeland Oslo School of Architecture and Design E-mail: even. despite the seemingly thorough legacy plan. in Nordic Journal of Architecture. no matter how hard the 2012 organizers embrace the legacy dream. and ‘Driving Spaces and the Dilemma of the Green City’. temporary structures and strategies that are supposed to benefit the local area when the Olympics are over. And even if the Olympics were to provide London with rewarding elements. G. Elvebakk & J. particularly that of the international media during the build-up to London 2012. Success in other fields is often overlooked by critics if the main complex fails. such as new housing and shopping centres.org/ by guest on August 23. Hvattum. But. Ashgate. Roads and Landscapes. His latest publications are: ‘Aerocabs and Skycar Cities: Utopian Landscapes of Mobility”. 2012.org and access this article. utopian cityscapes and sports architecture. Institute of Form. the unassuming steel framework of the stadium’s upper tiers is now set to become a permanent fixture. that the architectural centrepieces play a crucial role in deciding between failure and success when design legacy is concerned. and member of the multi-disciplinary research project Routes. it does remind us of just how complex and potentially troubled the idea of Olympic design legacy is.

‘London 2012’. Bakoyannis. 26 See P. ‘“Glocalising” urban landscapes: Athens and the 2004 Olympics’. p. ‘Calatrava`s Classical Greek’. Gold & M. Planning. Modern Architecture Since 1900. 147. 2012 317 . smoothness and geometrical order is omnipresent in Towards a New Architecture (1923). L. 192. 218. 2004. Explorer. See E. pp. DCMS. R. 21. 270–1. no. p. Gold (eds. the National Lottery. the ODA.’ Gold. the municipality of Athens and the Olympic village company. 23 D. vol. Poynter. R. see G. com/2004/1020/design_1-2.org/ by guest on August 23. ‘From square one on Games venues` use’. p.   4 See M. 14 In Higgins & Serota. 3. G. Architecture Week. pp.do> accessed 7 December 2011. however. op. 270–2. People’s Daily Online. derelict. MacRury (eds. vol. I  have consulted the second volume of the English Downloaded from http://jdh. Ashgate. op.uk/sport/olympics/ after-the-party-what-happens-when-the-olympics-leave -town-901629. For a more detailed account on the governance of London 2012. J. Higgins & N. cit. cit. ‘The legacy of the 2004 Athens Games’. 301. 20 October 2004. p. 2009.thisislondon.html> accessed 7 December 2011. ‘Abandoned. 18 July 2008  <http:// w w w. London. ‘The 2004 Olympic legacy that London must avoid’. F. p. u k / n e w s / a r t i c l e . 355. ‘National and Post-national Dynamics in the Olympic Design: the Case of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games’. p. pp.). there was no proper strategic planning for the period after 2004. Chicago Tribune. Towards a New Architecture.oxfordjournals. Cityscapes. Olympic Delivery Authority. 2007. See Le Corbusier. Media and Sport. the OAKA is scarcely used to host events that resemble the 2004 Olympics in scale and splendour.  2  <www. Hersh.Notes  1 In D.  27 With the exception of notable events like the Roger Waters concert on 8 July 2011 and three stadium concerts in 2010. ‘After the Party: what happens when the Olympics leave town?’.1 0 3 6 3 7 3 /Abandoned-derelict-covered-graffiti-rubbish-What-l eft-Athens-9billion-Olympic-glory.independent.   3 See G. the London Development Agency. d a i l y m a i l . 19 For further insights on the specifics of the rather turbulent planning process. 6 February 2009  <http:// www. 2007. Benevolo. 272.html accessed 3 June 2012. cit. op. Storia dell’architettura moderna..co. Farnham. 22 See K. 1896–2012. cit. Guiseppe Laterza & Figli. 76–91. Curtis. 10 See Malone.. op. pp. in Olympic Cities: City Agendas. The Independent. Karolos. 1. op. p. cit. Usborne. cit. in which facilities were more widely spread in the community. 28 The book was first published in Italian. 25. Libby. Ross. 299.   7 The budget for Athens 2004 was split between the organizing committee (the ATHOC). p. in Gold & Gold. See J. Olympic Homecoming—Greece`s Legacy and the 2004 Athens Games. 199–223. 15 See Evans. 187–9.). cit. Mendick. covered in graffiti and rubbish: What is left of Athens’ £9billion Olympic “glory”’. A  similar conclusion is made by Elias Beriatos and Aspa Gospodini from the Department of Planning and Regional Development. 3.uk/standard/article-23636200-the -2004-olympic-legacy-that-london-must-avoid. 300. 1986.html> accessed 7 December 2011. Media and Sport. Evans. cit. New York. peopledaily.   9 The London 2012 budget is divided between the organizing committee (the LOCOG).. 20 See Ross. 25 See S. op. Designing for Legacy. Serota (eds. op. c o . Beriatos & A.   5 See Evans. Traganou. op.   8 Ibid. M.. ‘London: Preparing for 2012’. 1.html#ixzz1Q1QY3cpH> accessed 7 December 2011. in Olympic Cities: 2012 and the Remaking of London.  24 R. Malone. op. no. ‘Athens post-Olympic legacy: Empty spaces. 1960. op.cn/90001/90780/91345/6467995. pp. and Ross. Gospodini. unsightly venues. and the Department for Culture. and the World’s Games.co. as L.. 21 ‘The [final] plan diluted the logic of concentrating development in major nodes by a policy that suggested post-Games use. see Gold. 2004. p. M. London. Poynter & I.. op. cit.). 12 W. University of Thessaly. Mail Online. ‘Athens 2004’. 2009. the Greater London Authority. 196. 19 August 2008  <http://www. and Malone.architectureweek.chicagotribune. Even Smith Wergeland 18 Le Corbusier’s obsession with pure surfaces. Athens. most notably in the chapter called ‘Architecture III: Pure creation of the mind’. London. com/theskyline/2008/08/athens-post-oly. Routledge. Cities. 4 August 2008 http://featuresblogs. Athens News.   2 In A. Phaidon Press Limited. 17 In B. p. with the plan containing apparent contradictions. Bari.   6 See ibid. 13 The Department of Culture. London. Design Issues. Our Promise for 2012. cit... 25 February 2005. p. 16 See J. Grohman. the Greek government. p. 303. 1996. In reality.. 7 August 2008  <http://english. uncertain tomorrow’. The Evening Standard. Dover Publications Inc. 11 See Poynter. J. p.html> accessed 7 December 2011. cit.com. Gold..

One the Move: Mobility in the Western World. Creswell. Routledge. Kayser Nielsen. 42 See A.. History of Modern Architecture. New York. 426–8. Keele University Press. & London. 39 See Grohman.. History of Modern Architecture. 34 M.. ‘Mobile Architects. ‘How the financial crisis could hit London 2012’.). London. 40 See Usborne. cit. Cambridge. 35 See Chapter  9. 2004. Tzonis & S. Ashgate. 33 Ibid. cit.co. pp. in Travel Space Architecture. London & New York. Tzonis. Downloaded from http://jdh. 1995. 374. 2: The Modern Movement. Vigor & M. MIT Press. pp. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity.  41 See A. Farnham. op. 37 See A. Tournikiotis. op. Benevolo.bbc. and P. Rizzoli. Mitrasinovic (eds. cit. Keele. 30 P. p. London. 38 In J. ‘The 28th Olympic Games in Athens 2004’. Calatrava. Santiago Calatrava—the Athens Olympics. Traganou & M.html> accessed 7 December 2011. in T. 29 In Benevolo. 2009. J. 7 July 2009 <http://www. 31 Ibid.). Mean.. 32 In N. After the Goldrush—a Sustainable Olympics for London. Amsterdam’. Rizzoli. Verso. Augé. op. ‘The Stadium in the City: A  Modern Story’. New York. 1995. in Poynter & MacRury. 2012 318 When Icons Crumble .uk/blogs/olympics/2008/09/how_the_financial_crisis_ could. MA.telegraph. pp. Tzonis. vol.translation from 1971: L. in The Stadium and The City. and R.html> accessed 4 January 2012. 149–50. 217. 2004. cit. Static Ideas: Santiago Calatrava in Athens’. p. 2006. 2005. Moen (eds. IPPR and DEMOS. 30 September 2011  <http://www. Warner. Panagiotopoulou. 23. London.org/ by guest on August 23. op. co. J. 1971.uk/sport/othersports/ olympics/london2012/5758718/London-2012-Seriousquestions-remain-about-Olympic-legacy. op. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 105.. The Historiography of Modern Architecture. p. The Daily Telegraph. ‘London 2012: Serious questions remain about Olympic legacy’.oxfordjournals. Karolos. 1999. 219–58. Traganou. Santiago Calatrava—the Complete Works. cit. p. and A. 36 A. BBC Sport. ‘The Production of Mobilities at Schiphol Airport. Bale & O. Kelso.