The Olympic City as a constructed ‘visual identity’ represented as a positive ‘heterotopian’ visual experience

Part 1. Special Issue: The Olympic City
By Stephany Tzanoudaki

This paper focuses on the visual representation of the Olympic city, the city that hosts the Summer Olympic Games, reflecting its urban, cultural and social identity. It is argued that what is visually experienced as an Olympic city is not a mirror representation of its urban and social condition, but a constructed identity of it. The Olympic city always has a representational role to play, with a choice about which picture of its reality should be shown and which should be hidden. This paper highlights the transitional character of the Olympic city as a visual identity from the modern to the postmodern era, arguing that the contemporary Olympic city reflects the crisis of utopian ideas (modern era) and the experience of spaces as heterotopias (Foucault, 1967), developed together with the phenomena of ephemeralisation, instantaneity and global effect (postmodern era). This paper discusses the role of design and architecture in the visual representation of the Olympic city and in the creation of a visual identity for it, arguing that today this identity often reflects an eclectic, idealised or fashionable image of the host city, with a tendency to ‘camouflage’ many other aspects of its social and urban reality.


  • olympic city
  • visual identity
  • heterotopias
  • architecture
  • urban identity
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