8 Amazing Olympic Villages and Venues You Can Visit Right Now

So far, things in Rio -- in preparation of this year's Summer Olympics, kicking off Friday -- don't seem to be going too well. The Olympic Village was deemed unlivable, there could be a toxic water problem for the swimming team, and there have been questions about how well gay athletes will be received in the host city; all this before the games have even started. It's had us looking back at previous host cities, villages, and venues, and wanting to return to some of the most amazing spots for old times' sake -- even if they look like they've gotten a few thwacks to the shin over the years. Here's a quick list of eight Olympic Villages and venues that you can still (and should) visit today. History always has the last word. 

Olympic Village Condos: Vancouver, Canada (2010)

Photo by Colin Knowles via Flickr

Vancouver, Canada hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Around 3,000 athletes were housed in the 1,000-unit structure that now serves as a space for housing, retail, and a 45,000-square-foot community center. The whopping one-million-square-foot structure consists mostly of steel, giving it an upscale, modern look. It's also one of the greenest buildings in the world, utilizing solar heating and green roof practices, among other innovative initiatives. Located just off the southeast corner of False Creek, Van City visitors can explore these Olympic grounds on foot. 

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Olympic Stadium: Barcelona, Spain (1992)

Photo by poguri via Flickr

Occupying some prime waterfront property along the Port Olympic Marina seaside, Barcelona's 1992 Olympic Village is hard to miss. Not only does it boast the two tallest towers in Spain, stretching 503 feet up into the skyline, but it's also got the iconic "Peix" sculpture, by architect and artist Frank Gehry. This massive golden-scaled fish rests in front of the Hotel Arts and, though sedentary, looks as if it could wiggle off and jump into the Mediterranean at any moment. 

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Panathenaic Stadum: Athens, Greece (1870, 1875; 2004)

Photo by Gilbert Sopakuwa via Flickr

For traveling history buffs that really want to get O.G., you can take a visit to the first-ever Olympic stadium in history -- though you might recognize it from the 2004 games in Athens, too. Built way back in 330 B.C., Athens' Panathenaic Stadium was a staple arena for the Panatheniac Games, before being rebuilt in marble in 144 B.C., and then neglected once Christianity popularized in the 4th century. However, thanks to an excavation in 1869, the stadium once again found purpose during the Zappas Olympics, and, after its 1896 refurbishment, played host to the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern-day Olympics that same year. Today, it's used as the final destination of the Olympic flame's journey through Greece. 

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Olympic Village Swimming Pool: Berlin, Germany (1936)

Photo by CarlJohanLinell via Flickr

The 1936 Berlin games hold a dark significance as they were held during Nazi rule of Germany, and subsequently Jews were prohibited in participating. (The bid was won two years before Nazis overtook the country). Hitler felt hosting the games -- the first to be televised -- would be the perfect way to spread his racist rhetoric. Not to be outdone by the 1932 games held in Los Angeles, they poured an undisclosed amount of money into building a new stadium and six gyms. The Olympic village was built about 20 miles on the western edge of the capital city, and included low-level dorms, training facilities, and a swimming pool. Though the space has undergone many renovations and purposes, including a Soviet military camp and hospital, it's never been fully restored. While the building used by German gold medalist Jesse Owens gives tours daily, the rest of the complex is left in a elegant decay that makes for some great photos. 

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Pool at Foro Italico: Rome, Italy (1960)

Photo by Anthony Majanlahti via Flickr

Rome's first bid win was to host the 1908 Summer Olympics, but, thanks to the 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Italian capital was forced to pass the torch to London. Finally, 52 years later, the Eternal City was given another chance with the 1960 Summer Olympics. With only a handful of new venues purpose-built for the games, several of Rome's historic structures were either renovated or used as-is for the big event. One such preexisting plot was the Foro Italico, formerly the Foro Mussolini, or Mussolini Forum. Built between 1928 and 1938 in an early Fascist architectural style, the complex was meant to lure bids for the 1944 Olympics to be held in Rome. While this never happened, during the 1960 Olympic games, several parts of the sports complex were used -- including the marble indoor pool area (also rumored to be used by Mussolini himself) which was used as a training and practice pool. 

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The Bird's Nest Stadium: Beijing, China (2008)

 Photo by Carsten Ullrich via Flickr 

The National Stadium was originally designed as one of the 31 venues built for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Resembling a modern art take on a bird nest, the stadium is colloquially known as "The Bird's Nest" and is the aesthetic design product of several architects, as well as controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The structure is primarily used as a soccer stadium, but (lucky for us) it is also open to the public, for a small entrance fee, and available for tours. Night tours are particularly beautiful when you can see The Bird's Nest lit up in all it's artistic glory. Fun fact: this stadium will have a second life for Olympic use during the 2022 Winter Olympics that are to be held in Beijing. 

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Bobsled Track: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (1984)

Photo by Damien Halleux Radermecker via Flickr

You may not be able to go to Yugoslavia anymore -- the country's six republics dissolved into separate countries starting in 1991 -- but you can visit the crumbling sites of the 1984 Olympics in the city of Sarajevo. Since the 1984 Winter Olympics, several of the Sarajevo competition sites have been fully forgotten, leaving us with picture-perfect spots of their almost-distant memories. 

Ski Jump Stadium: Sapporo, Japan (1972)

Photo by Kevin Poh via Flickr

Ringing in as the first location for the Winter Olympics outside of Europe or the U.S., the 1972 Sapporo Olympics have left a few reminders in their place. One such spot is the Okurayama Jump Hill, a high-reaching large jump ski hill that was also used in 2007 for the FIS World Ski Championships. Aside from the ski jump, you can also check out the Winter Sports Museum, Okurayama Crystal House, and the Mt. Okura Observation Platform.

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