CULTURE

Private sponsorship to clean up the city

The news did not make the headlines. As part of its environmental and road safety corporate sponsorship program, the Papastratos Cigarette Manufacturing Company is donating the sum of 97,000 euros to the Attica Periphery Development Fund for a good cause: the removal of illegal advertising billboards from Attica?s roadsides and rooftops.

While announcing losses of 7.9 million euros, the privately owned company maintained its pledge to provide the funding for the campaign to carry on. The drive, which began as a state-funded endeavor in 2010 and resulted in about 1,104 fewer signs around Athens, came to a premature halt due to a lack of funding. The city continued to suffer from arbitrariness and low aesthetics even in areas of exceptional beauty and major historical importance, such as the original course of the marathon race.

Thanks to the Papastratos grant, the campaign started again a month ago and signs have already been removed from Mesogeion Avenue, the Attiki Odos and the original marathon route.

?The campaign to bring down illegal billboards took off in a very dynamic way with the help of local authorities and the civil society about a year ago. Subsequently, however, the campaign?s pace slowed due to a lack of funding,? said Andreas Giannopoulos on behalf of the Greek tobacco company. ?Our grant came along in order to cover this need, in view of the Attica urban landscape?s aesthetic revamp and road safety measures.?

Despite a number of problems, 21 large signs were removed from buildings along Mesogeion Avenue and another 54 billboards from the Attiki Odos in the last month alone.

?Our aim is not to simply deposit a certain amount of money in the bank,? noted Giannopoulos, who added that during times of crisis, a company?s corporate responsibility is self-evident. ?On the contrary, we are keeping a close eye on the project?s development and we are in touch with local authorities. We are confident that all of Attica?s illegal signs will be removed thanks to our sponsorship.?