The Olympics represent the pinnacle of achievement in sports, with each participating country sending their finest athletes as representatives. These men and women have devoted years of training to attain the dream of a lifetime: a spot on their country’s Olympic team. It is an honour that many aspire to but only a select few ever achieve.
The Games also hold great appeal to those of us who cannot hope to ever win a gold medal. They attract a huge worldwide viewership—an estimated 3.64 billion people tuned in for the London 2012 Olympics.
Olympic events unfold either outdoors or in stadiums constructed specifically for that purpose. The convenience and adaptability of air-supported structures are indisputable, but Olympic organizers have yet have yet to take advantage of this option. We suspect that will change in the future as the benefits offered by domes become too great to resist!
Many different sports work extremely well in domes thanks to their adaptability. While the scope of the games and level of attendance might make dome events currently unfeasible, it is still interesting to think about which events might actually work well when staged in this environment. Using domes would also help to counter one downside of the Olympic experience: those super expensive facilities constructed for the games and then underused or even abandoned afterward.
While events such as kayaking and rowing require an outdoor venue (though someone could certainly create an indoor virtual reality version), most other Olympic team sports are a natural for dome play. These can vary in scale from Ping-Pong all the way up to field hockey. It also makes sense to stage applicable outdoor events inside a dome as a way of avoiding possible weather issues.
Matching the 20 story, 91,000 seat capacity of a permanent structure like the Beijing National Stadium from the 2008 games is not currently possible for a dome. However, that is not necessarily a disadvantage. The smaller scale of domes can help to make more intimate events, such as wrestling or handball, more easily appreciated by spectators. Video screen technology has also now advanced to the point where large displays no longer require any kind of permanent installation.
Many different kinds of surfaces are available for dome users. This makes it easy to accommodate the varied requirements of Olympic mainstays like field hockey, basketball, badminton, gymnastics, and tennis. Other popular events, such as archery, boxing, handball, judo, shooting, and weight-lifting would also work perfectly well under a dome.
Devoting domes to single events or ones that use similar set-ups is a viable idea that bypasses the kind of time-consuming alterations that can lead to delays in the main venue. Hence, the hosting country could feasibly stage tennis and badminton competitions the same day or pair up archery and shooting.
When you think about it, the vast majority of summer Olympic events are perfectly suitable for a dome environment. As the sizes of domes increase, the practicality of this approach becomes more and more apparent. The cost-effectiveness of air-supported structures would also greatly aid the hosting country’s budget as construction and staging costs continue to soar.
An air-supported structure will figure prominently in Qatar’s staging of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, so domes well may become a key component of the Olympic Games going forward. As innovations in the design of air-supported structures continue, the possibilities are truly exciting.