F1 vs. Olympics: Can a race in a stadium work?

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What do you do with post-event Olympic infrastructure? If you are like most host cities, you continue to use the facilities you spent millions on to host sporting events of the same nature as the ones present there during the Olympics. This isn’t a revelation, it’s just common sense.

One of Formula One boss Bernie Eccelstone’s criticisms of the Olympics is the massive investment for a one-off event whereas Formula 1 investment is an on-going revenue generator (as long as you get a low sanctioning fee of course). The two worlds may be colliding in a recent statement from the current management group (Legacy Corporation) in charge of the Olympic stadium for this year’s event in London.

“Following an extension to the bidding period, the Legacy Corporation can today reveal that it has received four bids for the venue. Bids from West Ham United, Intelligent Transport Services in association with Formula 1, UCFB College of Football Business and Leyton Orient will now be assessed to ensure they are compliant, before being evaluated ahead of negotiations.”

F1 in a stadium? That would be akin to the Race of Champions would it not? The Telegraph quoted Ecclestone as saying:

“This is a firm that happened to be bidding for use of the stadium, not to own it. They came up with a scheme whereby Formula 1 would race around the stadium, inside it, outside it. They wanted to make sure I would be interested.”

This dovetails with the recent quibble over a London Grand Prix in which Ecclestone assured us that the Santander bank promotional concept was indeed a reality and ‘no joke’. Could the two concepts meld into one for a second grand prix in the United Kingdom since 1993?

Ecclestone has a point regarding the infrastructure. What happens to the facilities once the Olympics have had their way with them?

Olympic Hall Zetra- Unfortunately the Bosnian War broke out in Sarajevo and this facilities copper roof was too alluring for ammunition metal so it was effectively ransacked. However, it has been re-built and re-opened in 1999 for $17M.

Centennial Olympic Stadium- Atlanta’s Olympic stadium was a bit different in that the local baseball team, the Braves, has an owner, Ted Turner, who funded a portion of the construction with the understanding that post-Olympics, it would be used for the team…which it was.

The Nippon Budokan- It opened in 1964 and operated well for the Tokyo Olympics but most people recall the venue for music instead of the heroic feats that happened within…I still have my Cheap Trick: Live from Budokan album.

Olympic Stadium- Perhaps one of Canada’s biggest embarrassments, the stadium was a debacle from the start and was not finished properly for the Olympics. It had high aspirations architecturally with a 500 ft. tower and sliding roof but it was only completed eleven years after the Olympics. It used occasionally now and the nearby Velodrome has been converted to a Biodome. This infrastructure is a perfect example of Ecclestone’s critique on how the Olympics can hurt a city.

Luzhniki Stadium- Russia’s Moscow games were subject to the Afghanistan-fueled boycotts and the whole event was all very…’Russian’ including the architecture. The uninspiring stadium later faced the wrecking ball.

Despite the gamble, many cities rush to host the Olympics for the same reason some nations invest in Formula One…legitimacy on the world stage. It’s as simple as that. Many scoff when Ecclestone suggests that Formula One is a better investment but the prime mover for hosting either F1 or the Olympics is really the same.

The draw of an Olympics is larger as it occurs every four years and has a real international buy-in and emotional nation-vs-nation vibe that F1 doesn’t quite have but in the end, Formula 1 is continuous and given the right perspective and context, it is a better investment in the long run as history proves with the legacy stadiums and infrastructure left in the wake of the Olympic dream.

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