Sochi and beyond: A look at the venues for the most expensive Olympic Games


February 12, 2014

The Bolshoy Ice Dome (image: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee)

The Bolshoy Ice Dome (image: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee)

Image Gallery (22 images)

The XXII Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are said to have cost around US$50 billion, which makes them the most expensive Games to date. The bill includes many new buildings and the first ever Winter Olympic Park, planned by stadium designers Populous, who also created the Fisht stadium, venue for the opening and closing ceremonies. But the lack of big-name architects is noticeable, as is the fact that most of the venues are designed for re-use; some will even be dismantled and moved elsewhere after the Games.

The Fisht Olympic Stadium

The Fisht Olympic stadium, used for the opening and closing ceremonies, is the only structure in the Coastal Cluster (the group of indoor arenas around the Olympic Park and located near the coast) to be completed by an established Western architecture firm, Populous. The company worked with a consortium of Russian design-construction firms including Ingeokom, Mosproekt-4 and Botta Management Group. Named after a nearby mountain peak, the stadium design is a first for such a large-scale building in Russia. The form was meant to resemble the snowy peaks surrounding the Black Sea resort area, but the innovation is in its use of the material EFTE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene).

The material itself has been around for a while; as noted in previously on Gizmag, it was used for the Aqautic Center for the Beijing Olympics. ETFE is a lightweight material that is translucent and gives thermal protection, but lets in a sufficient amount and quality of natural light for grass to grow beneath it. Here the architects spent a lot of time in consultation with engineers to achieve a unique effect. They applied inflatable, "pillow-like" material in sections that resemble fish scales, but were carefully designed to give a cloud-like impression when viewed from inside.

The material also helped to enhance those spectacular lighting effects we saw during the opening ceremony. The tripartite roof structure includes a middle section that will only be used for the Olympic ceremonies and will be removed after the Games. The main level of the stadium is elevated on a landscaped mound so spectators, rather than being enveloped by towering walls, have views over the Olympic park.

Populous was also responsible for the master plan of the Olympic park, the first such park built for a Winter Olympics. After the Games, the Fisht Stadium will be used for Russian and FIFA World Cup football matches, and will host other entertainment events. As such, it was designed with a flexible capacity, which means that it can accommodate crowds of up to 45,000 people, but can also be scaled down internally so that smaller crowds of say 25,000 can enjoy a slightly more intimate atmospheric experience.

The Iceberg Skating Palace

The Iceberg Skating Palace was built by Ingeokom, in cooperation with Mosproekt-4, one of the directing agencies of the Moscow Committee for Architecture. The 12,000-seat venue was designed for training and competition in figure skating and short-track racing, and is one of the more striking buildings of the Sochi games. The building spreads over 20,917 square meters (225,000 square feet) in area.

But it is the sweeping tile-like façade, made from interlocking waves of glass and sandwich panels, that captures one's attention. The solid panels are painted in varying shades of blue, with the shape and color designed to recall the forms of the surrounding Caucasus mountains, as well as the waves of the Black Sea. Although comparisons to a massive wall of ice are also apt. This is a demountable structure, which will most likely be moved to another city after the Olympics.

The Adler Arena Skating Center

Next in the circle going around the Cluster is the Adler Arena Skating Center. This structure was designed to be "crystal-like" with stained glass windows and a band of transparent glass that enables spectators to see out of the building. Cannon Design, the Canadian firm who was responsible for the Richmond Oval of the Vancouver Winter Games, consulted on the interiors with designer-builders Stroy International.

Bob Johnstone of Cannon cites the reflective silver ceiling fabric, which keeps internal temperatures cool, as one of the important features of the venue. The foil-like material has been used on previous ice venues, but not in such a large quantity as here, in this 8,000-seat Arena.

The Ice Cube Curling Center

Completed in 2012, the Ice Cube Curling Center is shaped at one end like a curling stone with a ribbon-like façade, and is, according to the organizers, deliberately "simplistic in its design, which symbolizes democracy, and accessibility."

The structure incorporates 12,000 square meters (129,000 sq ft) of a special "breather membrane" developed by DuPont Tyvek, on the walls and roof. The membrane material is both weather-resistant and porous, protecting against rain, snow and wind, while also allowing moisture vapor to diffuse. The dual effect is designed to aid overall ventilation while cutting down on air-conditioning costs.

The lower-level walls of the Curling Center interior are constructed from insulated glass units with a mirror-like finish to reflect the ice floor. The building is demountable, and will be moved to another Russian city after the Games.

The Bolshoy Ice Dome

The Bolshoy Ice Dome, by design and construction firm Mostovik, is a12,000-seat multi-purpose venue, with a shape that was inspired by a frozen drop of water enclosed by a dome. The roof has a partial metal shell that seems to pour over the translucent section, which includes 38,000 LED lights.

The Dome is also said to resemble a Fabergé egg, with the multi-colored lights mimicking the jewel-encrusted surface of the Fabergé. It covers a 30 x 60-meter (98 x 196-ft) ice rink and, together with the Shayba Arena, is hosting the ice hockey events. The Bolshoy is one of the largest venues and will be used as a multi-purpose entertainment center in the future.

The Shayba Arena

The Shayba Arena was built by the Central Research Institute for Industrial Buildings (CNIIPromzdaniy) and accommodates 7,000 spectators. The venue is hosting Olympic ice hockey competitions and Paralympic ice sledge hockey competitions. "Shayba" is the Russian word for hockey puck, but also echoes a common cheer of "Shaybu" heard often at Russian hockey matches.

The venue will be dismantled and transported for post-Olympic use as an Ice Palace in another Russian city. Both the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Shayba Arena are operated by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

Sources: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, Populous, Cannon Design, e-architect

About the Author
Phyllis Richardson Phyllis is an architecture and design writer based in London. She champions the small and sustainable and has published several books, including the XS series (XS, XS Green, XS Future) and Nano House. In her spare time she ponders the impact of the digital world on the literary. All articles by Phyllis Richardson

This happens after every single Olympics, it is found out how expensive they were to host, how much it cost to get ready for it, and then how very little the country actually made off of it and the citizens are left with the bill to pay how ever the moronic country that hosted it sees fit. The Olympic games are just a bad idea all around, they never improve diplomatic reations, never help the country, and are only a few short weeks anyway. Also, viewer numbers are embarrassing low when looking at individual nations. They're just pointless to have, lets just not have them anymore.

It should be hosted in poor nations and paid for by every nation that participates and basically used to get roads and facilities built for nations that need them. Stadiums should be designed to be turned into hospitals and such. That or just don't have them anymore, they help no one.


exodous - "It should be hosted in poor nations and paid for by every nation that participates and basically used to get roads and facilities built for nations that need them. Stadiums should be designed to be turned into hospitals and such."

Stadiums and hospitals are NOTHING alike, and hospitals have very strict building codes that contractors must follow.

But whatever, you can look forward to the 2020 summer games in Somalia.

Derek Howe

Even poor countries don't want to host it exodous, I think it's mostly to show off to other countries or some kind of PR for the country's pride.


How correct exodus is! The Olympic games represents the total folly of humanity, we have global warming, energy crisis, third world poverty, yet ten of billions of $ are wasted on these white elephants, not to mention the cost of the transporting all the leech's to the venue from their home countries.

Yes the games are a good idea but should be held in the same location each time - Summer games in Greece (for obvious reasons) and Winter games in another suitable location.

The games should be limited to amateur athletes only (as it use to be) - sport has now just become a corrupt money spinning exercise

Brian M

Re-usable stadia are a step in the right direction, but the Olympics always create a local disaster zone. With modern communications, there is no reason to centalize anything but the awards ceremony, with the events being held in existing facilities, thus benefiting, not overwhelming, many locations. This is amateur sports, folks. Put the money into the roots, not the ephemeral flower, there to be plucked by big contractors.

Bob Stuart

None of the above points addresses the plight of the citizens who were evicted from their homes to make room for this crap. They are still killing the dogs that the displaced families left behind.

I like the idea of the world competing every 4 years, but with today's communication networks, there is no reason they all have to be in the same place. Pre TV, they had to go to one place so that reporters could update their readers on a daily basis.

Why not let cities/countries bid on events? For instance, there is no reason Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis, Track & Field, Rowing, Sailing, Soccer, Field Hockey, Wrestling, Weight lifting, Equestrian and Gymnastics couldn't held in 12 different locations. It would keep costs at a minimum because new stadiums and housing buildings wouldn't be necessary. The cities bidding on a sport would use their existing stadium and hotels for competitors and spectators.

Many will say, "This would hurt the attendance because spectators want to see a variety of sports". This is my point... THE OLYMPICS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FOR THE ATHLETES... Not the wealthy who can afford to fly their family to China for a couple of weeks.


exodus summarizes well.

2020 Olympics in Tokyo is one of those absolutely crazy ideas. The governor who brought it in is already ousted with corruption.

Japan is under a huge national debt which keeps mounting. The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster will take a bare minimum of 40-50 years to decommission safely, if everything goes well and granted there will be no major earthquakes in the meantime. And this is a big IF politicians are crossing their fingers on. The probability of another Tokyo earthquake is estimated quite high. There are also Nankai and Tokai major earthquakes(magnitude 8-9 class) predicted with the likelihood of 70-80% within 30years or so. Every indication points it to be a stupid and reckless project. This also indicates IOC is very, very corrupt.

If any accident happens in the removal of over 1500 spent fuels, or any major earthquake, Tokyo may be designated as an evacuation zone. The world might witness a first case of a paralympic of a grand scale.


All the commentors must be bleeding heart liberals. I am liberal myself but you folks are rediculous. Life is meant to be lived, and hopefully enjoyed. I was not put here to make the world better for others and not enjoy it myself. Yes the Olympics are an endulgence, so be it. Save this money and blow each other up like Syria and 1/2 the world is doing???? The original Greek Olympics stopped all fighting during the games and all athletes and spectators were given amnesty to attend the games. This was hoped to bring some sanity to the world and let people compete without violence and hopefully learn to know each other better. This was mostly adhered to until the terrorist chose to make their assynine point and ruin the games for the whole world. And of course they then became political and Carter made the U.S. athletes boycott the Russian Olympics. Ruining there lifetime of work to compete in an athletic event. He should have resigned as a statement of his willingness to sacrifice for this political cause. The Olympics are SPECIAL for a reason and the world needs them to maybe get back to their original intent, if a country wants to show off and it costs its citizens that is part of living. Not everything is fair.


Every Olympic Game city built structures to last & stay, 3 of these are demountable to move to other city? radical But probe the hotels complex outside the Main Games area.

Stephen Russell

tigerprincess is a dreamer... It used to be cities that took on the Olympics. Now it takes a country with a ruthless dictator to fund the extravaganza these events have become. No free democratic country is irresponsible enough to vote for this kind of expenditure. I'm from Atlanta and in 1996 we spent 3 billion on the Olympics... about 5% to 7% of Russia's reported budget. In the future, it will take a Russia or a China or one of the Banana republics to ram these kind of economic disasters down the throats of the working masses.

I want to see the Olympics continue on the current schedule. I just think we need a new format similar to my suggestion in my previous post.


Exodus is enlightened!

Derek where you see obstructions others see possibilities.

Pumping money into developing nations this way will lead to them "coming out on their own"... Compare that to a drug company that pumps millions into a a particular research avenue which eventually pays off with a new miracle cure and we reap the benefits for a long time thereafter... - So much money was pumped into Japan after WW2 and now most of the world's cars come from Asia, - Brazil also now manufactures jetliners... Simple examples that illustrate how much "Exodus" has a point


Without getting into politics, I enjoyed seeing the photos of all the beautifully designed and built venues despite the cost of the Olympics.

Maverick62--As for keeping expenses down and using existing venues, it's already been successfully done--Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics. (scroll down to the bottom)

Marco Corona

Panem et Circenses

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