Olympics special series: An Olympic Acropolis

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Athens has been widely criticised for its US$15bn Olympic Games in 2004. The city, now is in the grips of an economic crisis, is said to have left many of the buildings, which were built for the Games, to ruin.

A UK Daily Mail newspaper investigation in 2008 found 21 out of 22 Olympic venues lay abandoned since the event and the stadiums over-run with rubbish and weeds. It said, the most striking ‘legacy’ was the huge sums spent, and wasted, on venues to hold sports with little following in Greece.

Athens Tourism and Development Company’s (ATEDCO) CEO Alexis Galinos told CMW the 2004 Olympic Games actually left a rich legacy in infrastructure and venues, despite negative media reports. Though, Galinos admitted it had not been easy for the city to manage the new areas and venues constructed for the needs of the Games.

“The Athens Games have undoubtedly helped Athens in becoming a modern European metropolis and in setting the infrastructure needed in terms of accommodation, public transport, highways, sports and recreational facilities,” he said.

“Furthermore, it has led the way and increased the appeal for other sports events to take place in our city such as the Athens Special Olympics in 2011 and the International Children’s Games in 2009.

“While it is true that not all facilities have been fruitfully exploited since the Games, due to red tape, other facilities, such as the Badminton Stadium, the SEF stadium, the Olympic complex and the Tae-Kwon-Do stadium are offered for concerts, shows and conferences. The Badminton Stadium is nowadays considered as one of Athenians’ favourite events venues, with events organised there from all over the world.”

Galinos said from a cultural point of view, all the aforementioned venues have expanded the events market and given the city the opportunity to bring artists and shows from all over the world. “These events are embraced by Athenian’s who are longing for culture and art,” he added.

Galinos said ATEDCO’s advice to London for leaving a lasting legacy from the 2012 Games would be: “to set down early on the strategy and mechanisms for the exploitation of the Olympic venues, once the Olympic Games are over, in order to show the people how the city has benefitted from the Games, culturally and financially”.

He added: “It is not easy to manage the new areas and venues constructed for the needs of the Olympic Games.”

Some have said the Athens Olympic experience sowed some of the seeds for the current economic problems in the country. Galinos is quick to refute this. “Investing in our city and its infrastructures can in no way be interlinked to the actual economic situation, as these works were indispensable to our city in order for Athens to become a visitor friendly metropolis,” he said.

“The return on investment we have had from the modernisation of the City of Athens still pays off. We would, therefore, have to admit at this point that the legacy left behind from the Olympic Games is considerable both in terms of the quality of our lives and the enhancement of our tourist product.”

“Finally,” he said. “Preparing for the Olympic Games was a great challenge for all Greeks and during the preparation and the course of the Games we proved that there are no hurdles that can’t be overcome when working together. Seven years after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games the country is facing the worst economic crisis in its history and it is with this legacy that we remain optimistic, keeping in mind, that we will have to work and struggle our way out of this crisis we have come up against all together.” 

Any comments? Email cmw@mashmedia.net

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