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Avoiding white elephants – making sustainable use of Olympic sports venues.

“White Elephants” are buildings that were built for a one-time sporting event such as World Championships or the Olympics, are expensive to maintain, but have little or no subsequent use. The term originally comes from Thailand. If an albino elephant is born there, since 1921 it must be presented by law to the king. Because white elephants are sacred and a symbol of royal power. However, the animals needed a lot of care and were not allowed to be used for work. Often they were given away, but were a heavy financial burden for the recipient. Due to the obligation to take good care of the king’s gift, the recipient usually suffered severe financial losses, even bankruptcy.

Buildings for the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 or Beijing in 2008 are considered examples of such white elephants. In the Alpine region, too, there are numerous such examples of architecture, such as buildings from Winter Olympic Games, from World Championships or Olympic bases, which are usually only used for a few weeks a year due to a lack of interim and after-use concepts.

The aim of the seminar in the summer semester 2018 was to deal with sustainable planning and utilization concepts for sports buildings in winter sports regions and to transform them into “Green Elephants”, i.e. to develop all-season concepts for them and the region as a whole. Current and former venues, such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck or Oberstdorf were examined and suitable measures were derived within the framework of sustainable development to strengthen the region in terms of economic, social and ecological aspects.

The seminar was held in close cooperation with the municipality of Oberstdorf and the CESBA Alps research project at Munich University of Applied Sciences, with Companeer’s managing director Thomas Albinger as guest speaker.

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