FUTURE CAPE TOWN | What if we converted Olympic venues into schools?

“Can temporary venues offer more than a cost-saving exercise?”


It is not enough to build temporary Olympic stadia and arena to lower the costs of mega-events . Rio de Janeiro is going one step further after the Olympic Games by converting an indoor arena into four schools.

FCT logo




When a city decides to bid to host a mega-sporting event like the Olympic Games, it has to prepare close to 30 venues of various scales to host one or more sport. Where some of these venues already exist, they might need minor temporary works or upgrade e.g. some additional temporary seats and services, or major works, where a major expansion is needed to transform the venue. Where new venues are needed to be built, they are either permanent when there is potentially a legacy use or temporary, when there is no long term need. And, for decades now the rising costs of hosting an Olympic Games has brought closer attention to these sorts of decision.

However, where temporary or modular venues are being built, they still may still come at a great cost, which makes less financial sense, if the benefits do not directly accrue to the city and its communities after the event e.g. if the arena is moved elsewhere and used for non-public-benefit causes. The London 2012 Olympic Games made major inroads in designing innovative temporary or modular venues – to ensure fewer or no white elephants – but even these venues came a at great cost. The temporary Water Polo Arena cost 30 million USD (R385 million) , the temporary Shooting halls and the relocatable Basketball arena cost 62.5 million USD ( R800 million). This  raises the questions: Are temporary venues more than a cost-savings exercise and how can a legacy value for the public be extracted from the investment?

More recently the city of Rio de Janeiro aimed to answer these questions, as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympics Games.

In its original bid file, the Handball Arena was planned to be a permanent venue – the fourth Hall of the Olympic Training Centre (OTC) a series of connected indoor arenas to provide a long term facility for the training of elite and Olympic athletes in Brazil. A few years after the bid was successful, the City Hall and the Federal Government decided that the OTC would only need three halls and chose to build a temporary fourth arena but to go further and ensure that  benefits were generated by the investment in the temporary infrastructure.

This is what triggered the city government of Rio de Janeiro, and the Federal Government to develop and incorporate the concept of nomadic architecture, an innovative concept “that has never been used in previous Games editions”. Designed by British firm AndArchitects the Handball Arena would be disassembled after the mega-event and its components reinstalled, resulting in four schools, each with a 500-student capacity.

BOOK01 page04 PERSPECTIVE2 school_interior_perspective

“Converting the Rio 2016 handball arena into four schools after the Games is an excellent example of Rio’s commitment to ensuring the 2016 Games leave tangible benefits for the local community. The nomadic architecture concept defined by our government partners is a first for the Games and we are proud that 2,000 Brazilian schoolchildren will benefit from it for many years to come.” according to Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman.

The location of the schools was defined in partnership with the Municipal Education Secretariat. Three schools will benefit students in the Barra region. The first will be located near the Olympic Park; the second in a land lot at Avenida Salvador Allende; and the third, near the Parque Carioca, where residents of the Vila Autódromo community will be partially rellocated. The fourth school will be installed in a land lot in São Cristóvão.


Developed by the Municipal Olympic Company (EOM), the Municipal Urbanisation Company (Riourbe) and the Ministry of Sport,  the 12,000 seat venue is being built in an area of about 35,000 square meters at the Olympic Park, in Barra da Tijuca at cost of 77 million USD ( R986 million). “This is the first time that this concept of nomadic architecture will be used in the Olympics, ensuring that even a temporary venue can provide a tangible legacy for the city.” says Maria Silvia Bastos Marques, President of the Municipal Olympic Company (EOM), which manages the city government’s Olympic projects.

Construction was completed in January 2016. The Arena of the Future is now 100% structurally complete for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games




Related articles: