A flurry of construction has been going on in Sochi, Russia, in preparation for this month's 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The all-new Sochi Olympic Park, constructed along the Black Sea coast, will welcome athletes and spectators to the Maly Ice Palace, Olympic Oval, Sochi Olympic Skating Centre, Olympic Curling Centre, Central Stadium and Main Olympic Village.
But developments go far beyond Olympic Park. Two Olympic villages, one at sea level and one in the mountains, have necessitated the building of new transportation infrastructure, including the country's second-largest railway station and numerous hotels. An estimated 42,000 hotel rooms -- almost as many as in Moscow -- are available for the Sochi Olympics.
The construction of major venues is par for the course once a city has been chosen to host the games, but what happens to those beautiful buildings once the crowds leave town? Meeting planners are the winners, with new venues, hotel space and infrastructure improvements making the destination more alluring to groups. Here's a sampling of past Olympic host cities and what they now offer for meetings and events.
Lake Placid, N.Y.
1932 and 1980 Winter Games
Lake Placid (above, lakeplacid.com) is one of only eight cities that have hosted the games more than once. An indoor skating arena, the Olympic Center (bit.ly/1d5TyxE) was built for the 1932 Winter Games, the first time hockey matches were played indoors. The center also hosted skating events in 1980, most memorably when the U.S. hockey team won gold in the "Miracle on Ice."
Tours of the center and the ski-jump complex are now available, while the Olympic Museum (bit.ly/1cpNQTL), inside the center, hosts groups of up to 100 among memorabilia from the two games.
The Conference Centre at Lake Placid (lakeplacid.com/meetings), offering 90,000 square feet of meeting space, opened in 2011.
Groups with golfers might hole up at the 246-room Crowne Plaza Resort & Golf Club, which features 14,200 square feet of meeting space plus the 45-hole Lake Placid Club.
1996 Summer Games
Travelers leaving Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport still pass a sign welcoming them to the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics. The 85,000-seat track-and-field venue built for the games, Centennial Olympic Stadium, saw Carl Lewis win his fourth consecutive long-jump gold, and Canada's Donovan Bailey set a world record in the 100 meters. After the games, the facility was transformed into Turner Field (turnerfield.com), home of baseball's Atlanta Braves. Aside from taking in a game, groups can enjoy tours of the field and the team's museum. For dining, the Braves' Chophouse seats 500.
The games' primary gathering place, the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park (above, centennialpark.com), now welcomes outdoor events of all sizes.
With 321 guest rooms and 16,000 square feet of meeting space, Embassy Suites Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park (bit.ly/1hcY4wb) offers a Ruth's Chris Steak House.
Salt Lake City
2002 Winter Games
The first games held after 9/11, the 2002 Winter Olympics were known for the pairs figure-skating scandal ("The Canadians were robbed!") and the surprise win by American Sarah Hughes over heavy favorite Michelle Kwan in women's figure skating. Held in Salt Lake City and the surrounding ski resorts, these games were legendary for doing what seemed impossible: making a profit, to the tune of $40 million.
"The beauty of our Olympic infrastructure and what has made the investment pay off is that we did not have to repurpose our facilities and venues," says Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. "We actually built our facilities before we won the bid, knowing we would use them."
Utah Olympic Park (above, utaholympiclegacy.com
) in Kearns, near Park City, is a year-round training center for winter sports, and demonstrations can be part of an on-site special event. The 1,300-square-foot Legacy Center's windows and decks look out on the freestyle-skiing training pool (jumpers do their tricks in the air and land in the water); the facility holds 100 for dinner.
Team-building activities are held at the Base Camp, and group sessions can be arranged for the Extreme Zipline and the Alpine Slide. Hotels in nearby Park City include the 350-room Canyons Grand Summit Resort & Conference Center (canyonsresort.com/grand-explore.html