Along with the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics is one of the two biggest sporting events on Earth. As such, Olympic bids tend to be backed with some pretty ambitious stadium designs and developments, but unlike with football, it is rare for athletics to fill enormous arenas for lesser competitions all year round. As a result, many Olympic venues are later repurposed, and the most typical repurposing is to make the venues suitable for football and then moving a local football team into the ground.
We saw this process in especially poorly planned and expensive fashion with regards to the Olympic Stadium built in London for the 2012 Games, which after much work and expense is now the controversial home of West Ham United. That’s one example that doesn’t make this seven, which I had to whittle down with there having been many more than seven examples in total. It’s worth pointing out that there are several stadiums which are called Olympic stadiums but never actually hosted a summer or winter Olympic Games, with some having been built for unsuccessful bids and others seemingly just liking the name.
This seven is in no particular order, I have just tried to include seven stadiums from different parts of the world that hopefully you will find interesting.
My thanks go to Michael who lives in Korea for sending in this suggestion, and without further ado, here are 7 football clubs who play at Olympic Stadiums:
7. AEK Athens
The modern Olympic Games were inspired by the Ancient Olympics which were held in Greece, so it makes sense to return to the competitions spiritual home to get us started with this seven. As well as providing the inspiration for the Olympics as we now know it, Greece has also twice hosted the modern summer Games, firstly for the inaugural modern Olympics in 1896 and more recently in 2004. Whilst the Ancient Olympics were held in Olympia, both of Greece’s modern Olympic Games have been held in Athens. The world’s only all-marble venue, the Panathenaic Stadium, was the host venue for the 1896 Games, whilst the 2004 competition took place at the Olympic Stadium of Athens, sometimes referred to as the Spyros Louis Stadium.
The stadium was opened in 1982 for that year’s European Athletics Championships in Athens, and a year later the stadium hosted the 1983 European Cup final between Hamburg and Juventus. The ground was renovated ahead of the 2004 Olympics, and has a current capacity in excess of 69,000. The three most successful clubs in Greece; AEK Athens, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, have all played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, as have the Greek national team. AEK Athens and Panathinaikos both currently play at the ground, with Panathinaikos having returned to the Olympic Stadium in 2018 due to building of their new stadium being put on hold because of financial reasons, meanwhile AEK Athens have been calling the ground their home since 2004, although they will be moving to the Agia Sophia Stadium in 2020. AEK have averaged around 15,000 at the Olympic Stadium this season, while Panathinaikos have averaged just over 5,000, so both teams seeking moves to more suitably sized venues is pretty understandable.
6. Pumas UNAM
Whilst Mexico have hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, the Central American nation has only hosted the Olympic Games once. When they did so in 1968, they became the first Spanish-speaking country to host the sporting extravaganza. Mexico’s Olympic stadium was the Estadio Olimpico Universitario, which was first opened in 1952. The first major event held in the stadium was the 1955 Pan American Games, and the capacity would be increased from 70,000 to more than 83,000 for the Olympics in 1968.
Four different football clubs have called the stadium their home over the years, and five if one includes the Mexico national team, but Pumas are the only footballing mainstays at the ground. The seven-time Liga MX champions have shared the stadium with the universities American football team also called Pumas since 1952, and both have played out of the Olympic venue uninterrupted every year since. A current capacity of just over 48,000 makes the Estadio Olimpico Universitario the fifth largest stadium in Liga MX right now, and Pumas average just over 20,000 fans at home games at the moment.
5. Racing Club de France Football
Anyone who watched my video looking back at the first 7 World Cup final venues and what those grounds look like now will be familiar with the stadium in fifth, and if you haven’t yet watched that video, do of course feel free to do so now and I’ll stick up a link to it on the screen at the end of this video. In 2024, Paris will follow in the footsteps of London as only the second city to have hosted the Olympics three times. Despite that fact, it will be the first time in 100 years that the Olympics has gone to the French capital, with the two previous Games held there having come in the years 1900 and 1924.
The Stade Olympique de Colombes, better known simply as the Colombes to locals, was the primary venue for the Games in 1924. Opened in 1907, the Colombes was the home of local rugby team Racing 92 and local football team Racing Club de France Football. Racing 92 played continuously at the stadium, which also hosted the 1938 World Cup final, up until 2017. Racing Club moved from the ground in mid-1980’s, but returned during the 2000’s, and even briefly renamed themselves Racing Club de France Colombes.
The Colombes was the largest stadium in France up until the 1970’s, when it lost that title to the Parc des Princes. Today, the capacity has fallen to just 14,000, but that’s still more than big enough for Racing Club, who compete in the fifth tier of French football right now.
4. Montreal Impact
Canada has twice hosted the Winter Olympics, but the North American nation hosted the Summer Olympics for the only time in 1976. It was the country’s second largest city of Montreal that beat bids from Moscow and Los Angeles to host the Games, and 29 countries boycotted the Olympics primarily due to the IOC’s refusal to ban New Zealand from competing after their rugby team went on a controversial tour of South Africa despite widespread calls to boycott the apartheid state.
Nicknamed the ‘big O’, the Olympic Stadium opened in the heart of Montreal’s Olympic Park in 1976. Built with a capacity of 73,000, that has since been reduced to 56,000, which still makes it the largest stadium in Canada. Montreal spent a fortune on the Olympic Park, including the Olympic Stadium as the centre-piece, and after the competition artificial turf was installed to make the ground suitable for baseball and Canadian football.
North American Soccer League side Montreal Manic also played at the ground from 1981 to 1983, and association football returned to the stadium in 2012. MLS side Montreal Impact play the majority of their home games at the soccer-specific Saputo Stadium, which has a capacity of a little under 20,000. However, when a larger attendance is anticipated, they play their home games at the Olympic Stadium, which is just a stone’s throw from and can be viewed from the Saputo Stadium.
3. Seoul E-Land
This video idea was suggested to us by Michael, who is a Mancunian living in Korea, and I suspect he had one particular stadium in mind when he suggested the idea. Seoul E-Land featured in my video looking at seven tiny football clubs with enormous stadiums, which I will also show a link to at the end of the video, and they feature once more today. In 1988, South Korea hosted the Olympics for the first time, becoming only the second Asian nation to do so. Unlike the three Summer Olympics which preceded it, Seoul managed to avoid a large-scale boycott, with North Korea and their allies Cuba being the only nations to stage official boycotts of the event. The result was the best represented Olympics of the Cold War era, and this would prove to be the final Games for both the Soviet Union and East Germany.
Work began on the Seoul Olympic Stadium in 1977, more than ten years before the Games began, and the stadium opened with a capacity of 100,000 in 1984. The stadium hasn’t hosted a major sporting event since 1988, and has tended only to be filled for music concerts, with the likes of Michael Jackson, Elton John and Paul McCartney all having played there. For a few years, football club Seoul United played at the ground, but in 2015, newly-formed Seoul E-Land moved in. The stadium now has a capacity of just under 70,000, and it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that second tier Seoul E-Land come nowhere near to filling it.
Despite having twice hosted the FIFA World Cup, having many large venues and being the sixth largest nation on Earth, Brazil only hosted the Olympics for the first time in 2016. In fact, the 2016 Rio Olympics were the first time any South American nation had hosted the Games, and given the extortionate cost and how quickly many of Rio’s Olympic venues fell into a state of disrepair, there may not be another one there for a little while.
The opening and closing ceremonies at the 2016 Olympics actually took place at the historic Maracana Stadium, but the primary athletics venue for the Games was the Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos. First opened in 2007, the Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos was closed in 2013 after a problem with the roof was identified, and it re-opened for the 2016 Olympics. Originally built for the 2007 Pan American Games, Botafogo were the only organisation interested in taking on the stadium permanently, although Flamengo and Fluminense both played at the ground whilst the Maracana underwent renovations.
By the time the Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos was built, it had come in at more than six times the original budget. Botafogo aren’t experiencing enormous crowds at the minute, and last season their average attendance at the stadium was just 17,609.
1. PFC Sochi
Following six Summer Olympic venues, I thought why not mix it up a bit in top spot with a Winter Olympic venue. It’s much rarer for Winter Olympic stadiums to become football stadiums, due to the dimensions and stadium build often being difficult to adjust, but that wasn’t the case in Sochi. The 2014 Winter Olympics was the most expensive Olympics of all time. Not just the most expensive Winter Olympics, but more expensive than any Summer Olympics as well. The total cost of Sochi 2014 was more than four times larger than originally budgeted, setting Russia back an eye-watering $51 billion. That made it three times more expensive than the previous London 2012 Summer Olympics, and even exceeded the cost of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The main venue in Sochi was the 40,000-capacity Fisht Olympic Stadium, which was built at a cost of $779 million. A further $56 million was spent after the Winter Games on transforming the Olympic venue into a football stadium, which included removing the stadiums roof and adding temporary seating to expand the capacity for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup. The Fisht Olympic Stadium hosted six games at the 2018 World Cup, but the ground needed an occupant after the finals. As such, second tier FC Dynamo Saint Petersburg were moved from St Petersburg to Sochi to give the city their first professional football club since 2013. PFC Sochi were promoted in their debut campaign into the Russian Premier League, where they are currently in last place and have an average attendance just under 10,000.