In their heyday, these were state-of-the-art stadiums that thronged with tens of thousands of sports fans. What’s more, many of them staged events that were watched by hundreds of millions on television. But for a variety of reasons, from war to nuclear disaster, their glory days are now long behind them.
20. Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Almost 200,000 soccer fans squeezed into the newly-built Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro to watch hosts Brazil lose 2-1 to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup Final. More than half a century later, the revamped venue played host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. But in a startlingly quick decline, by 2017 the hallowed pitch had been invaded by a plague of worms. What’s more, looters were pillaging the stadium’s equipment and even thousands of its seats.
19. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Center, Athens, Greece
In 2004 the Olympic Games returned to their ancient birthplace, Greece. The slogan of the 28th Olympiad was “Welcome Home,” but the estimated cost of $9.5 billion was far from welcome. And four years later the global economic crisis made the financial outlay even more keenly felt. The dried-up Olympic Canoe/Kayak Slalom Center in Athens offers a blunt metaphor for the state of Greece’s finances ever since.
18. The Astrodome, Houston, Texas
The Astrodome in Houston, Texas, was the first of its kind when it opened in 1965. Home to baseball’s Houston Astros and the NFL’s Houston Oilers, the dome once also reverberated with the sounds of rodeos, Elvis Presley gigs and a Muhammad Ali bout. But by 2000 the Oilers and Titans had moved out and in 2008 it was closed by the Fire Department. The venue last made headlines when it provided shelter for people evacuated from New Orleans following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
17. The Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan
For a quarter of a century, the 80,000-capacity Pontiac Silverdome was the pride of Detroit. And during that time it hosted the likes of the 1982 Super Bowl, 1994 FIFA World Cup matches and Michael Jackson and Rolling Stones gigs. However, after being abandoned by the Detroit Lions in 2002, it fell into decline. Then, in 2013, bad weather brought its once state-of-the-art inflatable roof crashing down, giving it a seriously post-apocalyptic makeover.
16. Olympic Village, Athens, Greece
Although it’s famous for its ancient monuments, Greece now has some more recent ruins. And thanks to the 2004 Olympic Games, they include the Olympic Village in Athens. What’s more, it was hoped the Games would be a money fountain for the country. However, sunseekers instead headed to Italy in 2004 in order to avoid the crowds caused by the event.
15. Linnahall, Tallin, Estonia
Built to host events at the 1980 Summer Olympics, Linnahall in Tallin, Estonia, is a crumbling monument to Soviet concrete brutalism. After the Olympic carnival had come and gone, however, Estonia had little use for this 5,000-seat venue. Consequently, the ravages of time and neglect have left the Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport – as it was called during the Soviet era – an eerie, decaying shadow of its former self.
14. Olympic Village, Berlin, Germany
Few sporting events have had as much historical significance as the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. That’s because they saw the Olympic flag hanging side by side with flags bearing the swastika of the Nazi party. And the most famous athlete to stay at the now ruined Olympic Village in Berlin was African American Jesse Jones. He went on to claim four gold medals at the Games, confounding Nazi ideology that insisted he was racially inferior.
13. Avanhard Stadium, Pripyat, Ukraine
Not many sporting arenas have been abandoned in such dramatic circumstances as Avanhard Stadium in Pripyat, Ukraine. Indeed, the former home of now defunct soccer club FC Stroitel Pripyat has now been almost completely reclaimed by nature. It was abandoned April 1986 following the infamous explosion at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The soccer club subsequently moved to a new purpose-built replacement city called Slavutych, but kicked its last ball in 1988.
12. Washington Coliseum, Washington, D.C.
The Coliseum was originally built as an ice-hockey venue before becoming home to the NBA’s Washington Capitols. However, the stadium is probably most famous for hosting a non-sporting event. For it was here, on February 11, 1964, that The Beatles performed their first American concert. In the 1970s, though, the Coliseum fell out of use as a sporting venue. It subsequently became a temporary prison and then a parking lot before finally being transformed into a huge REI store.
11. Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge Track, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This bobsleigh and luge track, built in 1982, attracted some 50,000 spectators during the 1984 Winter Olympics. But less than a decade after its construction, it was being occupied by Bosnian-Serb artillery units during a civil war. Following the conflict, it became a cycling track in its new official home of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then in 2014 it was eventually restored for use as a luge training run during the summer months.
10. Negishi Racetrack, Yokohama, Japan
Now that it’s overgrown and silent, it’s hard to believe that Negishi Racetrack in Yokohama once thrummed with the sound of 20,000 spectators during its heyday in the 1930s. In fact, this was Japan’s first Western-type racetrack when it opened way back in 1862. Traditional Western horse racing subsequently thrived here until 1942, when Japan launched itself into World War II. Later, the stables were transformed into cells for captured Australian soldiers. And these days the area is houses American military personnel.
9. Olympic Pool, Elstal, Germany
There’s something inherently creepy about empty swimming pools. It’s as if the water has been replaced by a distinct eeriness. But when the pool has been abandoned for some 80 years after playing a part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, that creepiness is surely ramped up a notch or two. This pool, part of the Olympic Village west of Berlin, was soon forgotten as the horrors of World War II unfolded around it.
8. Estadio Lluís Sitjar, Mallorca, Spain
Now demolished, this stadium on the island of Mallorca in Spain witnessed some special soccer matches in its time. The home of Spanish club RCD Mallorca until 1999, it was the venue for a famous 5-2 win over the mighty Real Madrid in 1962. However, its finest hour probably came in its final year as Mallorca’s home, when the club knocked English side Chelsea out of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
7. Giarre sports stadium, Sicily, Italy
In the shadow of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, the derelict Giarre sports stadium is haunted not by the past, but by a future that wasn’t to be. In fact, like many building projects in the area, this stadium was never completed. Work stopped some two decades ago, when the cash for the project dried up. As a result, vegetation now sprouts where crowds should have been sitting.
6. Beach Volleyball Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece
With nature seemingly threatening to overwhelm it by 2014, the rippling muscles, taut abs and bronzed bods seen at the Beach Volleyball Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece, during the 2004 Olympic Games seemed a distant memory. Indeed, like so many of the Olympic venues in financially troubled Greece, this structure looked set to crumble into dust. But in 2016 it was decided to convert it into a court of law owing to a national courtroom shortage.
5. Stone Mountain Tennis Center, Stone Mountain, Georgia
Proving that eerie, decaying Olympic venues aren’t just the preserve of war-torn European countries or financial basket-cases, the Stone Mountain Tennis Center in Georgia was built for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. The complex cost a cool $22 million and could seat 12,000 spectators. Nevertheless, the venue where Lindsay Davenport and Andre Agassi won gold medals for the home nation shut down in 2007. What’s more, soon afterwards it began to be reclaimed by nature.
4. Winter Olympic Sports Complex, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This chilling picture of what used to be a part of the 1984 Winter Olympics Sports Complex in Sarajevo tells its own story about how quickly and devastatingly war can disfigure a place. Indeed, the terrible toll of the Siege of Sarajevo, which began in 1992 and went on for almost four years, meant that makeshift graveyards needed to be built around the city.
3. Ski Jumping Tower, Grenoble, France
To most of us, ski jumps look scary at the best of times. And stripped of snow, with only crumbling concrete and rusty bits of metal on display, they appear positively terrifying. Here, the ski jumping tower used at the 1968 Winter Olympics certainly seems to have gone downhill since its pomp.
2. Bush Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
For some 60 years, minor-league baseball team the Indianapolis Indians played in this art deco ballpark. It started life as Perry Stadium in 1931 before being patriotically retitled Victory Stadium during World War II. Then, after the Indians moved in 1996, it eventually became a holding pen for old vehicles. By 2013 the stadium had been converted again, this time into an apartment complex. However, thankfully much of its art deco exterior and other historical features were preserved.
1. Olympic Aquatic Center, Athens, Greece
This is one diving board you don’t want to be jumping off. The outdoor pool used during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, was controversial. Indeed, plans to install a roof that would have protected swimmers and fans alike from the summer sun were scrapped. However, by all accounts it is now back in use as a swimming facility. And hopefully that pool has been topped up, too.