The Great Olympic Waste

There is something inside of me that loves abandoned places. My parents live in Leipsic, OH and right by the railroad tracks leading into West Leipsic is an old abandoned building. It’s all boarded up and dilapidated. I’ve often had the desire to explore it, but never have, since it’s not something a respectable pastor should be caught doing—breaking and entering and all that.

So instead, I check out photos of abandoned places around the world. It doesn’t take much searching to find some truly interesting places. Here are some pretty cool ones; my favorite is the Maunsell Sea Forts of England. What might surprise you is that some of the worst offenders are abandoned Olympic centers. 

This year, more than any, the cost of Olympics has made headlines. It’s a fresh reminder of the vast scale of the Olympics and the huge capital that goes into building the necessary housing for this important event. But as it goes, when the games are over, many of the facilities are left to rot.

Consider the Sarajevo Olympics of 1984.

Or the infamous Nazi Olympics.

Or a whole host of others, even some recent ones.


“View of the swimming pool in the 1936 Olympic village in Elstal, west of Berlin on May 5, 2008.” –

I’ve wrestled with this a lot. I feel, in some ways, it is the worst waste of natural resources currently taking place in the world, by the world. It’s a sober reminder of the disposable society we live in.

After college I spent a summer serving on the North Cheyenne Reservation. Native Americans, especially those living in the West, are known for using every part of the buffalo. In a way, they have perfected the art of conservation. They still hunt buffalo, but mostly as a ritual. I remember a story about a student in the local high school who got chosen to hunt a buffalo. This student was chosen based on an essay he wrote around the history and heritage of this ancient tradition. The elders wanted the student to know what it meant to destroy something, to take a life, and to treat that life—that resource—with respect.

While I was serving on the reservation, I attended one of the local churches for a special program. They had brought in a Christian body builder. Maybe you have seen these guys before. They will tear a phonebook in half, bend an iron frying pan, and a whole host of other super-human feats—drawing spiritual lessons from each, of course. I think they were popular in the 90’s.

I remember chatting with the Body Builder after the service. He shared with me his love for missions and mentioned that he had done a tour through Africa. He told me the story of one of his first shows.

He stood up in front of a small village and he did his normal routine: He tore up a phone book. He bent a frying pan. He crushed a tin cup with his bare hands. And each time he destroyed something; the faces of the villagers became more and more discouraged. You could see the sadness in their eyes. He had never realized just how valuable a tin cup would be to some of the villagers. Or how precious a cast-iron frying pan was. Or even a phonebook. The things many were living without, he was destroying before their eyes. These feats didn’t impress them—it was stressing them out.

Like those villagers, the Olympic waste does not impress me. Instead, it kind of stresses me out.

You can disagree if you want, but I think we should stop this ridiculous, pride-based plan to host the Olympics in a different country every year. Why waste so many precious resources? Instead, we should host them in one place, indefinitely. I suggest the summer Olympics in Athens—I mean, if anyone deserves it they do. And the winter Olympics in Switzerland—as neutral as you can get. And the money we save can go towards the poor who often suffer because of the waste of Olympics.  

Will it ever happen? Unlikely. Should we all be challenged to sacrifice a little comfort and pride in the attempt to be better stewards of God’s resources? I believe so.


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