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Top 5 Greatest Winter Olympic Venues

The B1M | 5:36

Top 5 Greatest Winter Olympic Venues

Tom Ravenscroft

27 December 2017

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THE Olympic Games are the world's most high profile sporting competition and the global event has been responsible for the creation of some incredible architecture over the last century.

Cities keen to impress both those visiting the Games, and the vast global audiences they command, have created an array of impressive structures to stage events.

Despite often being overshadowed by the flashy architecture of its summer cousin, the Winter Olympics has created numerous varied and interesting buildings throughout its 90 year history. Here we look at the top five.


First-up is a building that did not actually host any sporting events, but was instead constructed for both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Although the Games in Sochi were heavily criticized for their high cost, this exuberance gave birth to some particularly impressive venues.

Above: Fisht Stadium was the centrepiece of the USD $50BN Olympics in Sochi (image courtesy of Populous).

The centerpiece of the Games was the Fabergé egg-inspired Fisht Olympic Stadium. The $779M USD arena is named after the nearby Fisht Mountain.

Originally built as an enclosed facility, the 40,000 seat venue was re-opened in 2016 as an open-air football stadium and is set to host matches during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Undoubtedly one of the most architecturally significant buildings to ever host Olympic sport, the Torino Esposizioni was converted into a temporary ice rink for the 2006 Games.

Originally built in 1949, the exhibition hall designed by engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, is a spectacular structure that is an early innovative example of using prefabricated precast elements.

Above: Pier Luigi Nervi's Torino Esposizion is the most architectural significant building to host Winter Olympics events.

To host the Olympics, the facility was converted into an ice rink by laying a sand base with refrigeration pipes, and then freezing water on top of this substrate.

The temporary arena held 4,320 people for ice hockey matches during the Games. Afterward, it returned to hosting fairs and exhibitions.


Inspired by the city’s “heron” symbol, the vast Richmond Olympic Oval was built to host the speed skating events during the 2010 Winter Games.

To enclose the speed-skating rink – which is the same size as six international hockey rinks – the world’s longest composite glulam wood and steel arches (spanning 95 meters) were created.

Above: The vast Richmond Olympic Oval has been reconfigured into a multipurpose arena (courtesy of Richard Oval).

Due to their size, speed skating venues often struggle to find a post-Olympics role, but this $225M USD building was designed with legacy in mind.

After the 2010 Games, the Richmond Oval was reconfigured into a multipurpose arena that includes two ice hockey rinks, two running tracks, a climbing wall and a flexible arena which can be used for basketball, volleyball and indoor football.

The venue received a Gold Medal from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Association of Sports and Leisure Facilities, and in 2015 was recognized as one of the 10 most significant sports venues of the past 50 years.


Buried deep within a mountain, the Gjøvik Olympic Cavern Hall was built for the 1994 Winter Olympics and hosted 16 ice hockey matches during the Games.

The decision was taken to place the arena deep underground so that it would not take up valuable downtown property or interfere with the Lillehammer’s cityscape, whilst still being centrally located.

Above: The Gjøvik Olympic Cavern Hall is the world's largest underground auditorium (Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games).

The spectacular underground venue has a capacity of 5,500 and is still the world's largest underground auditorium. Since the Games, the Cavern Hall has become home to Gjøvik’s ice hockey team.

1 - M-WAVE – NAGANO 1998

Topping our list is the distinctive shaped M-Wave in Nagano, Japan.

Built to host speed skating events at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the vast facility is enclosed by an M-shaped roof that gives the venue its name. The roof – designed to resemble the wave-like peaks of the Japanese Alps – was constructed using laminated timber from larch trees grown around Nagano.

Above: The M-shaped roof gives the venue its name (image courtesy of the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities).

In its speed skating formation, the flexible arena has a capacity of 18,000. Two movable stands, each of which have seating for 1,210 spectators, allow the arena to be converted into various configurations; including a concert hall and a football field.

Just like Canada’s Richmond Oval, the M-wave received a Gold Medal from the IOC and the International Leisure Sports Facility Association, and in 2015 was also recognized as one of the 10 most significant sports venues of the past 50 years.

The growth of television and online media audiences, coupled with the importance of showcasing cities in our ever more globalized world, means that we’re set to expect further incredible Winter Olympic venues in the decades to come.

Images courtesy of International Association For Sports and Leisure Facilities, Stringio, 2014 XXII Winter Olympic Games, Populous, Massimo Ankor, Aloboom, Cannon Design, Richmond Oval, Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games, Tunnel Talk And Derek Lepper.

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