An Olympic Park is a sports campus for hosting the Olympic Games. Typically it contains the Olympic Stadium and the International Broadcast Centre. It may also contain the Olympic Village or some of the other sports venues, such as the aquatics complex in the case of the summer games, or the main ice hockey rink for the winter games. The Olympic Park is part of the "legacy" which provides benefit to the host city after the games have ended. As such it may subsequently include an urban park and a museum or similar commemoration of the games that were hosted there.

Given the above context, Olympic Park is not a proper noun. It has been accompanied with the an article. Then I expect that we can say an Olympic park, not necessarily an Olympic Park (with both words capitalized). Why are the two words capitalized even when not speaking of a specific park in a specific city?

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    nb While Wikipedia is good and useful for some things, I wouldn't look to it as any paragon of English prose— I wouldn't be concerned if something looks non-standard there, and by the same token I wouldn't use it to demonstrate the acceptability of a certain usage. Corners of it go long untended, and any project with anonymous contributors of varying English skills from all around the world is bound to have all sorts of inconsistencies.
    – choster
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:21

3 Answers 3


As part of your question you note that Olympic Park isn't a proper noun (and thus shouldn't be capitalized) but I believe you are incorrect.

Olympic Park is the name of a specific building, monument or place name; as such, it is capitalized. The exact nature and geographical location of this park may be different every time the Olympics occur, but that doesn't change that it is a place name.

To give another example, Cirque du Soleil (such as Varekai, Dralion or Quidam) is another place that moves around (touring in different cities across the world) but is also capitalized. This is true even though there can be multiple iterations playing simultaneously in different geographical locations.

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    I agree Olympic Park is a proper noun. But I'm not sure about the analogy with Cirque du Soleil, which I think is the name of a traveling group or production company, not a 'place name'. I mean, once Cirque moves out of town, it doesn't leave behind a physical location.
    – user6951
    Mar 23, 2015 at 20:35
  • But there are uses of Olympic park out there in actual texts.
    – user6951
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:49
  • Why does leaving behind a physical location matter with respect to the grammar rule, @δοῦλος? Mar 24, 2015 at 22:32

Because 'Olympic Park' is the name of an official entity at an Olympic Games. Just like Olympic Games is the name of a competition.

And one can use indefinite articles before proper nouns that are names. I just did it with 'Olympic Games'. (See also a World Series example below.)

Note that you can also say Olympic park (i.e., a common noun) when referring to a park that happens to be an Olympic Park.

This is the same as referring to a country's National Zoo (the name of an official entity) as a 'national zoo'. The only difference is that 'Olympics' is always capitalized.

For instance:

...an Olympic Park is typically a central campus for sports and ceremonies related to the games, but in Boston's case, Olympic Park would be all of downtown. [emphases mine]

Source: Boston is Olympic Park, Dorchester Avenue is Olympic Boulevard--UPDATE 2/4/15

Example 2:

The proposal does not include plans for an Olympic Park, O’Connell said. The city itself would fill that role.[emphasis mine]

(But note the very next sentence: “We see Boston as the Olympic park,” he said. And see below for my comments.)

Source: Lawmakers warm to Boston Olympics bid

Example 3:

The Coastal Cluster will include five ice sport venues, with the stadium for ceremonies centred in an Olympic Park [emphasis mine]

Source: Sochi 2014 Venues

All uses of Olympic Park are as names of an official entity, akin to National Zoo as the name of an official entity.

On the other hand, when referring to a park that happens to be an Olympic Park (the official entity), Olympic park can be used.

Here the capitalized adjective Olympic is used with the common noun park:

“We see Boston as the Olympic park,” he said.

Source: Lawmakers warm to Boston Olympics bid (ibid)

"If you really want to develop a part of a city like East London, it probably makes sense not to use 250 acres [100 hectares] and hundreds of millions of dollars on an Olympic park and stadium. There are probably better uses for that money," Zimbalist said. [emphasis mine]

Source: Pictures: Past Olympic Venues—Rotting, Renovated, Repurposed

This is equivalent to saying "let's not build a national zoo." One is referring to a zoo that happens to be a national zoo, but one is not referring to the official entity's name.

For a related example that shows the use of the indefinite article with the name of an "official entity," here a sports championship series:

World Series is always capitalized even when it does not refer to a specific one.

And one can use an indefinite article:

Remember that a World Series that features the New York Yankees is sure to draw more attention than a World Series that does not.

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    I disagree-- similar capitalization of a similar sort is used in different phrases, too.
    – HarryCBurn
    Mar 23, 2015 at 20:12
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    I agree with @Iplodman. The text doesn't seem to be talking about the article title, rather this type of park in general. Mar 23, 2015 at 20:16
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    Answer has been substantially edited since the above comments.
    – user6951
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:43

The capitalization here is an idiosyncrasy of the article history. Like its counterpart article for Olympic Stadium, this article originated as a reference to a single specific facility, so the capitalization was uncontroversial. Like it and Olympic Village, it lived subsequently for a time as what Wikipedia calls disambiguation pages, where one title may refer to different concepts— or different examples of one concept, as is the case here. Again, since the page's sole purpose was to list out articles that might be anticipated by entering Olympic Park, no change was necessary.

Through multiple edits over a period of years, these pages ceased to meet the WP criteria for disambiguation pages and were declared to be regular articles, but the titles were not changed.

Most style guides would agree that generic concepts should not be capitalized even if specific examples are. Even though the name of a classification might be included in a name, and thus capitalized as a proper noun, unless it is a name in and of itself, it would be a common noun and not merit capitals. For example, National Geographic's style guide stipulates

  • the African continent, continent of Africa, the continent
  • down Pennsylvania Avenue, along the avenue
  • Commonwealth of Virginia, the commonwealth
  • University of Maryland, the university's students
  • Zion National Park, Zion Park, the national park, the park

APA Style is similar:

American Psychological Association, University of Washington, Department of Sociology [but] the association, a university, a sociology department

For that matter, Wikipedia's naming conventions suggest that since these are now articles rather than disambig pages, the second words should be lowercased, as is the case with National park, Prime minister, Army group, and so forth.

  • This does not explain actual non-Wikipedia uses of the term even when they refer to Olympic Park that is not part of a prior Olympics, i.e., not part of an Olympic's legacy.
    – user6951
    Mar 23, 2015 at 22:45

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