Glamorous arenas built without plans for future point to big debts

Museums and the new football stadiums showcase the latest in architectural design. The irresistible commercial attraction of the Olympic Games and the World Cup has contributed to a ruthless competition that has also left a legacy of debts and empty stands. Naturally, architecture has been sucked into this competition – and into the game of making a lasting impression. A characteristic example is the design by renown Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (architects of the Tate Modern Gallery in London) of the new Beijing Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games: a metallic, nest-like structure of curved steel walls. This happens not only with the Olympic Games. The monumental scale of the World Cup – and to a lesser extent, of the European Championship – means the host country has to foot the bill. When Italy hosted the 1990 World Cup, it had to build many stadiums without plans for their use after the event. The situation is worse for smaller countries. Portugal is facing similar problems after hosting last year’s European Championship, where Greece triumphed. But during Portugal’s championships last season, most of the impressive stadiums that had hosted the Euro were half-empty, straining the country’s finances. Greece has also submitted its application to host the European Cup in 2012, arguing that most of the stadiums are ready, since they were built for the Olympic Games. The Greek teams, however, have turned a deaf ear, and a fierce battle has begun to select the 12 stadiums that must be submitted in the application file.

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