3 Olympic Host Cities Imaged from Space
2023/07/13

The 2016 Olympic games are in full swing, and the sports junkies here at Planet have been diligently watching the games on TV and marveling at the host city, Rio de Janeiro, from a unique vantage point…Low Earth Orbit.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil captured by a Planet satellite on August 6, 2016. RapidEye image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0We snapped this image on Day One of the 2016 Olympic Games. While the city may look serene from space, a flurry of sporting activity was happening below. At the time our satellite captured this image, crew teams were rowing qualifying races in Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, the mens cycling road race was winding through the lush mountain greenery of Tijuca National Park (left), and beach volleyball qualifications were underway on the world-famous Copacabana Beach (middle).

While the games continue down below, our constellation of satellites orbits above, dutifully taking pictures of the rest of the planet. Take a look at what some of history's more unique Olympic host cities look like from space.

Olympia, Greece: 776 BCE Games

Olympia, Greece captured by a Planet satellite on May 14, 2015. PlanetScope image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0First stop: Olympia, Greece — the site of the very first Olympic Games. Nowadays, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is host to flocks of tourists, interested in the archaeological site's large temple complex and sporting venues. The most visible part of the site is just north of the river. It's a small rectangular dirt runway surrounded by grass — this was the world's first Olympic stadium. In this stadium, spectators watched the original events of the games, which included chariot racing, wrestling, discus, javelin and pankration: an ancient martial art.

Athens, Greece: 1896 & 2004 Games

Athens, Greece captured by a Planet satellite on November 7, 2015. PlanetScope image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4. 0Athens, Greece played host to the very first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and the 2004 summer games. If you look just east of the world-famous Acropolis, you'll find the all-white, marble Panathenaic Stadium (bottom) that was built to host the 1896 games. 241 athletes from 14 countries attended these games, participating in 43 total events.

Left: the Acropolis and the gleaming white Panathenaic Stadium. Right: 2004's Athens Olympic ComplexFor comparison, the massive Athens Olympic Center that hosted the 2004 games is clearly visible from space. In 2004, 10,625 athletes from 201 countries participated in 301 events.

Both complexes are still used today. Today, the Panathenaic stadium serves as the finish line of the Athens Classic Marathon, and remains one of the city's popular tourist attractions. The Athens Olympic Center hosts international sporting events and large concerts.

Helsinki, Finland: 1952 Games

Helsinki, Finland captured by a Planet satellite on November 7, 2015. RapidEye image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4. 0Helsinki, Finland is less than 500 miles from the Arctic Circle, but that didn't stop the IOC from naming it host to the 1952 summer games. Helsinki is the northernmost city to host the summer games. In this image, the stadium complex still stands north of the city center, just to the east of the north/south rail line.

Rowing and sailing events were held on Meilahti, the lush green island extending into Seurasaari Bay (left), and Liuskasaari Island (bottom right) just to the south of the city center. Today, Liuskasaari is still a sailing hotspot. In this image, you can see its large, busy marina full of watercraft.

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