Contemplating the day after the 2004 Games

ith 280 days still to go before the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Athens, serious concerns are emerging in the local and foreign press, not only as to whether the venues will be ready by the deadlines set by the International Olympic Committee but about what is to happen after the lights go out. This was the central issue of a conference held by the International Herald Tribune. The event included distinguished speakers from politics and the economy – New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, his ND shadow counterpart Giorgos Alogoskoufis, and European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou. «The Aftermath of the Olympic Games 2004: Greece at the Crossroads» was the name of the conference at the Hilton Hotel. Barcelona’s mayor, Joan Clos, described his own experiences during the Barcelona Games when he was municipal councilor and a member of the Olympic Games Committee. «The main aim was development,» he said, after two world fairs had twice led the municipality into bankruptcy. In 1987, when the city was awarded the Games, all efforts went into infrastructure rather than the Games themselves, with the result that the city is now a magnet for tourists. Meanwhile, the Barcelona Games themselves set an example for others to follow. As an aside, it was in Barcelona that, after many years, Greece won two gold medals, which went to Pyrros Dimas and Anna Verouli. We met Mayor Joan Clos, accompanied by Assumpta Escarp i Gibert, municipal councilor in charge of participation and coordination (just what we need for the volunteer movement), and Director of Foreign Relations Margarita Obiols during their visit to Kathimerini’s offices, where they came directly from the airport before attending a dinner given by Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni. The women discussed the climate that prevailed in Barcelona during the Games «where indifference turned to enthusiasm, no one went on holiday, everyone stayed at home but there were no traffic jams; Barcelona was one big festival with music and dancing in the streets.» We can only hope for the same as the time approaches. The guests were taken on a tour of the Olympic installations, but not by Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki or members of the board. However, the compatriots of Santiago Calatrava, who has designed the roof of the Olympic Stadium, were optimistic about the Athens Games. «We had the mayor as head of the organizing committee, as in Atlanta,» remembered the women. «You will have two ladies on the podium, Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki,» they said. It was Bakoyianni’s predecessor, Dimitris Avramopoulos, who signed the contract to hold the Games, and Angelopoulos-Daskalaki who managed to get the Games for Athens. With dynamic Dora as mayor of Athens, with the government co-responsible for the Olympic venues, the success of the Games will have many people bickering about the result. The important thing is for them to succeed. Barcelona, show the way!