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Olympic stadiums to be recognised as UNESCO world heritage buildings?

Olympic stadiums to be recognised as UNESCO world heritage buildings?
October 29, 2016

Olympic stadiums and facilities should be protected with their own cultural heritage listing, according to a leading member of the International Association for Sport and Leisure Facilities (IAKS).

Speaking at the Olympic Museum’s new stadium design exhibition in Lausanne, Switzerland earlier this month, Dr Miranda Kiuri, an architect and researcher at the University of Liege in Belgium, called on UNESCO to introduce a new listing category for stadiums that have a strong cultural, physical and sporting significance.

Dr Kiuri told media “it’s very important to recognise the cultural heritage profile and potential of Olympic stadiums and emblematic Olympic architecture.

“I’d like to see architects work together with the Olympic movement, experts, academics and UNESCO to consider the creation of a special sporting heritage label.

“The terms ‘cultural heritage’ and ‘world cultural heritage’ come with a very high level of recognition. Heritage buildings have a place in the public memory and stir an emotion. This is true of Olympic stadiums, so they merit recognition and protection.

“For some stadiums you have to consider both their tangible and intangible heritage value. Every stadium can tell us an important and insightful story.

Dr Kiuri cited the example of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum stadium, used for the 1932 and 1980 Olympics that, that has been declared a national cultural heritage building by the US Government, stating “as a rare stadium to host two Games, it has intangible value.”

Dr Kiuri suggested that if they were given a listing, it would be easier for the 25 existing Olympic stadiums to promote different programs, both sporting and touristic, and to create network between them.

She explained “this would allow us to identify some common problems they experienced, such as with hosting opening and closing ceremonies, so we could learn for the future of stadium building.

“A listings criteria could encourage more efficient and sustainable Olympic buildings in the future.”

Dr Kiuri also argues that a UNESCO listing would aid the preservation of historic stadiums and make sure that future renovations of old sports facilities are dealt with carefully and responsibly.

She added “at the moment there are some controversies about reconstruction.

“For example, there was a lot of debate before the (2014 FIFA) World Cup in Brazil about how to modernise the Maracanã Stadium and how to preserve its national cultural heritage.

“Eventually they maintained only the facade, but the roof and seating bowl was changed.

“If we start to promote cultural heritage programmes and a stadium listing, the process of making such modifications and renovations will be clearer.”

Dr Kiuri is apparently not alone in her campaign. A group of Japanese architects, including Fumihiko Maki and Kengo Kuma, recently began petitioning UNESCO to recognise the gymnasium building designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on its World Cultural Heritage listbefore the Games return to the city in 2020.

Images: Sydney's ANZ Stadium, the main venue for the 2000 Olympics (top) and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (below).

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