08/04/2012 09:29 am ET Updated Oct 04, 2012

Olympic Stadiums Worth Visiting (PHOTOS)

When spectators take their seats in London's new Olympic Stadium, they'll be focused on the moment: cheering athletes competing for track-and-field gold. But the stadium is designed to outlast the 2012 Summer Games: The lightweight, ecofriendly structure will be reduced to a more functional size, 25,000 seats, as part of the Olympic Park, complete with gardens and a riverfront promenade.

London's building boom is typical for host cities eager to make a big impression on the world stage. But the coolest stadiums make an enduring impression, not only through architectural flair and historic importance, but also by hosting events, guided tours, and sports activities that let visitors get a taste of Olympic glory. In Beijing, for instance, the cutting-edge Bird's Nest stadium now attracts wintertime athletes to its indoor ski resort.

With the cost and complexity of these colossal wonders, it's no surprise that things don't always goes as planned. The now iconic Montreal stadium, with the world's tallest inclined tower, was only partially finished in time for the 1976 Olympics. A funicular takes tourists up to observation floors for spectacular views of the Laurentian Mountains. But they come at a hefty price: the stadium is one of the world's most expensive, coming in at $1.4 billion in today's dollars.

The Panathenaic Stadium--where you can jog on the same track used by the first modern Olympians--was just the beginning of the stadium's comeback. Read on for more ways to explore celebrated sports arenas.

--Diane Selkirk

See More on Travel +Leisure:
Do-It-Yourself Olympics
Strangest Olympic Souvenirs
London Insider's Guide

Coolest Olympic Stadiums