CULTURE

More than a year since Athens riots, Syntagma?s wounds are still gaping

Syntagma Square?s current look is the result of a number of riots over the last couple of years, the worst of which took place on June 30, 2011: A night when little was left untouched by the angry crowd as it sought to pillage one of the most historic parts of the Greek capital.

Unfortunately the state in which the square finds itself today is still very disheartening. No matter how many times state services have been delegated the task of restoring some sense of order, it seems that the damage is still hugely apparent. The damages for that night alone have been calculated by authorities at some 612,000 euros. There were more riots to come in October, when the costs came to 380,000 euros, while in February 2012, the riots and their resulting damage spread beyond Syntagma throughout the center of the capital.

One year ago, when the municipality was able to regain full control over the square, following its two-month occupation by members of the so-called Indignants movement, most of the basic infrastructure was replaced and fixed: the seating (which was replaced not with marble, but with modern, eco-friendly wooden fittings), the grids over the drains, the green areas and, where possible, surfaces were wiped clean of graffiti.

According to calculations, on the night of June 30, 2011, no less than 20 tons of marble had been wrenched off Syntagma?s sidewalks, steps and walls, sending the cost of repairs sky high. There has been no sign of action or improvement (aside from some of the sidewalks) on the state?s part in these areas and the image is at best distressing. The authorities? decision not to stop the waterfalls from flowing, in a bid to boost public morale, appears to have missed the mark, as they look both absurd and pathetic: The water flows over crushed marble that on one side has been covered with bright yellow paint.

Nana Spyropoulou, a high-ranking official with the state?s technical services, admits that the restoration and full repair of Syntagma Square isn?t one of her top priorities, mainly due to the fact that available funding has mostly been channeled toward other areas that had sustained worse damage. The debate regarding Syntagma?s repair and restoration has two major sticking points. The first was implied by Spyropoulou, in other words that the cost will be too high at time when the state is in no position to fund it. Sponsors have shown an interest but nothing is certain.

The second problem is the fear and trepidation that any money spent on restoring Syntagma will be money down the drain. There is always the dread of severe riots recurring and this is one of the main arguments against moving ahead with improvements.

However Spyropoulou confirms that the state is working on a study for Syntagma?s restoration which it intends to implement as soon as possible. The fundamental point of the study is the removal of all marble elements from the square, and, Spyropoulou said, ?We are focusing on materials that are more durable and won?t be easily misused as the marble was in the last riots.?

Concerning the water features, there have been proposals concerning multicolored vertical surfaces as a contrast to the blue. The wooden seating is merely a temporary solution, she confirmed. It seems that the marble will never return to the square; however, any alternative to its current state would be welcome.