Hosting the Olympics has become a way for a city to show itself off on an international stage and generate tourism dollars, and cities spend millions or billions for the privilege. But after the events are over, the medals have been handed out, and the torch is extinguished, what’s next? What happens to a city after the Olympics are gone?
Since 2008, we’ve documented the successes and failures, the forgotten remnants and ghosts of the Olympic spectacle. Some former Olympic sites are retrofitted and used in ways that belie their grand beginnings; turned into prisons, housing, malls, gyms, churches. Others sit unused for decades and become tragic time capsules, examples of misguided planning and broken promises of the benefits that the Games would bring. We’re interested in these disparate ideas — decay and rebirth — and how each site seems to have gone one way or the other, either by choice or circumstance. We’re equally interested in the lives of the people whose neighborhoods have been transformed by Olympic development.
The images on this site are a fraction of the photographs we've taken in each city. The cities included in the first phase of the project were Athens, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Helsinki, Mexico City, Moscow, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, Lake Placid, Rome, and Sarajevo. Images from these cities appear in our first book, designed by Paul Sahre with a foreword by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. Photographs from phase one of the project were exhibited at Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, Powerhouse Gallery in Brooklyn, and The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The project has been profiled by CNN, CTV, the Guardian, among others.
The Olympic City Project is ongoing. We've recently photographed in Seoul, Turin, and Munich, and there are more cities, exhibitions, and publications to come.
“Cities which have hosted summer and winter Olympic Games have experienced differing fates — some eerie, some surprising and some altogether depressing. From venues turned into prisons or churches, to huge derelict stadia, the social and architectural aftermaths are stark. Photographers Jon Pack and Gary Hustwit’s The Olympic City is a disconcerting body of work.”
Jon Pack is a Brooklyn-based photographer whose work has been shown in galleries in the US and Europe. He currently has an image from The Olympic City at the Brooklyn Museum in an exhibit called Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present. Since 2013, he has worked as a still photographer on eight feature films, including While We're Young, Maggie's Plan and Don't Think Twice. He is a member of the ICG, IATSE Local 600. Follow Jon on Instagram or Twitter.
Gary Hustwit is an independent filmmaker and photographer based in New York. He worked with punk label SST Records in the late 1980s, and was subsequently involved in a wide range of projects in music and book publishing before he began producing documentaries in 2001. His films include the design documentaries Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. Follow Gary on Instagram or Twitter.
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The word “Olympic” and the Olympic rings symbol are trademarks of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and are used in connection with this project under the Fair Use Doctrine covering commentary and criticism.