As the hullabaloo dies down over the handover of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) to the Greek state, we should take the opportunity to ponder its future and the lessons we have learned.
The first thing is that every major project in present-day Greece had been fought – vehemently. The Acropolis Museum, the privatization of Piraeus Port and the SNFCC have all been the subject of loud protests, lawsuits and union reactions. SYRIZA and also PASOK in the past, as well as various “ecologists,” unions and others have battled some or even all these projects. Have our politicians learned anything from this or will they be opposed to all new things once they are in the opposition? It’s something they should think about.
The second lesson is that there is an establishment in this country that is not just interested in the bottom line and has given its best self to the country. The Niarchos Foundation deserves recognition because it has given an enormous amount of support to Greek society, with professionalism and without fanfare and public relations stunts. Greece has a long history of benefactors who have played an instrumental role in the nation’s development and it is extremely positive that this is still going on today, especially when comparing such generosity to the whinging and demands of other businessmen and groups.
The SNFCC also showed us that Greeks need positive role models and people with vision. The warmth with which they embraced the cultural center from the get-go is telling. They already consider it their own and are deeply concerned about its fate after it passed into the hands of our politicians. Hopefully, they will demand that it is properly managed from here on out.
The fourth thing we learned is that Athens has incredible potential for becoming a thriving tourism destination, with nothing to envy in Barcelona or other popular choices. But it needs more new attractions to really take off. Constantine Karamanlis had the right idea in the 1960s with the projects he initiated around the Acropolis, the Athens Festival and other areas of tourism. Athens, and Greece by extension, can come back into vogue again, with the rebirth centered along the southern coast, which has been more or less abandoned since the 2004 Olympics. The site of the former airport at Elliniko is a perfect example of a prime location that has fallen victim to the voices of misery.
Finally, as a society, we need to ponder what we can achieve when we simply get over ourselves and our petty gripes. We have inherited an amazing piece of the planet’s “real estate” and unlocking its potential is entirely up to us. Now as far as the government is concerned, we can hope it will rise to the occasion and not see the SNFCC as just another body where it can accommodate its cronies.