The decay of glory

By Kelly Wakefield

There have been two stories in the media within the past few weeks that have shown the darker side of major global sporting events.  The first story was that of the decline and decay of a once famous stadium in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.  The legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between the heavyweight champion George Foreman and Muhammad Ali.  History tells us that Ali became champion for the second time that night, defeating the younger Foreman in the eighth round.  The sad decay, as Andy Kershaw writes for the BBC, is witnessed first hand, the stadium now a crumbling and gloomy space with litter and excrement occupying this iconic place.  Squatters have occupied one of the changing rooms with the Ministry of Sport turning a blind eye.  This sad story begs the question as to what happens to stadiums and sporting venues built for purpose for global sporting events once the games are over?  If stadiums such as the Tata Raphael Stadium  (it’s original name) can be left to fade , with history and into history, what about those others spaces that do not capture such worldwide imagination?

The second story that has hit the headlines within the last week is that of the Delhi Commonwealth Games to be opened on 3rd October.  The seemingly unusable place of the athlete’s accommodation has been photographed and transmitted around the world with some countries such as Scotland and New Zealand delaying their team’s arrival in Delhi.  Photos clearly show the uninhabitable situation that some of the buildings are in with leaking toilets and mucky animal paw prints visible on mattresses.  Promises from the organisers that the games will go ahead as planned are a background to the buildings from the Delhi games causing controversy.

The narrative of sporting spaces and places is much bigger than can be addressed in this article however, the idea of important spaces being lost to time and decay as well as spaces that are yet to imagine full potential is an important one to broach.  Maybe the perspective on these ideas is one of memory and that as the physical remains decay, the memories of the events that took place within stadiums such as that in Kinshasa will never fade, rust or crumble.

Andy Kershaw, BBC, 6 September 2010, “Sad decay of Kinshas’a ‘Rumble’ stadium

BBC, 23 September 2010, “New Zealand adds to India’s Commonwealth Games woes


  1. Thanks for that, very interesting and definitely more than a little creepy. Some of the photos seem familiar as though they have been used in films or something like that.

Leave a Reply or Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: