Mexico City: A Model of Olympic Efficiency?

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The Sochi Winter Olympics have an estimated cost of $50 billion. These games have become famous for colossal expenditures, like a $9.4 billion road that stretches 30 miles, leading from the Olympic Village on the coast to a ski resort in the middle of nowhere.

Perhaps future olympic cities will look for less wasteful ways of spending money. And maybe, they can look for inspiration in places like Mexico City, which actually seems to have spent its olympic dollars reasonably well.

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Mexico spent around $175 million to host the Summer Olympics in 1968, the equivalent of 1.2 billion in 2013 terms.

These olympics took place amid the violent repression of student protests and were certainly not free from criticism. But you've got to give them some credit, most of the facilities that were built or renovated for the 1968 games are still used by thousands of people. Maybe this is because the facilities for the Mexico City Olympics were built in a major city, instead of in a far off, sub-tropical resort.

Here are some of Mexico City's olympic sites, as they looked then and now.

1. The Pool

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Mexico City's olympic pool attracts up to 15,000 users per month, according to city officials. The local government employs 100 instructors, who give affordable swimming lessons to anyone who registers at the pool. The catch? There's a long waiting list to acquire pool membership. On average you must wait four months to join.

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2. The Olympic Stadium

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Mexico City's Olympic stadium is still very much in use. It is the home of Pumas, one of Mexico's most popular soccer teams. The best thing about this stadium in terms of cost effectiveness is that it wasn't even built exclusively for the olympics. The 68,000 seat stadium was built in the 1950s to host a variety of sports events, and service Mexico's largest university, the UNAM.

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3. The Olympic Village

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This complex of 29 towers and 900 apartments was built with public funds to house olympic athletes during the 1968 games. After the olympics were over however, the government recovered its investment by selling the apartments off to individual families, who now maintain the site on their own.

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4. The "Sports Palace"

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This 18,000 seat arena was built in 1966 to host olympic basketball games. Professional basketball is not big in Mexico, but the city has found other uses for the "Sports Palace." It is regularly used for concerts and conventions, including this sex expo in 2011.

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5. The Mexico Arena

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This facility also has seats for 18,000 people. Built in the '50s, it was slightly renovated for the Mexico City Olympics, and used for boxing matches. Now, the Arena is Mexico City's top lucha libre or mixed martial arts venue. Come here on Fridays and Tuesdays to see Mexico's best lucha libre stars.

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Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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