Athenians reclaiming Faliron Bay

In the weeks before the Olympics, the stretch of open coast between the Faliron Delta and the Peace and Friendship Stadium (SEF), which had virtually been a wasteland for decades, underwent a rapid cleanup and makeshift planting, with promises from the authorities that after the Games it would be transformed into a recreational zone combined with flood protection works (see box). So far, despite several presidential decrees and declarations by no doubt well-intentioned politicians over the past year, work has yet to begin. This appears set to change after an announcement this week by Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia of plans for Olympic venues, detailed in a draft law to be tabled in Parliament in the coming weeks. The minister said the Faliron coastline would be used for sports facilities for local municipalities and as green spaces. The plan also calls for upgrading a yachting marina next to the SEF and shops in the long building stretching from the tae kwon do stadium almost to the beach volleyball stadium. Palli-Petralia said nightclubs would not be allowed, but that plans for an aquarium and skating rink were also under consideration. Cycling, fishing Irrespective of what might eventuate, it seems that some people are not waiting. On any weekend, dozens of people can be seen strolling along the new concrete walkway at the water’s edge. Fishermen waiting for a bite gaze out over the scummy waters of Faliron Bay; yachtsmen arrive at the sailing club next to the esplanade, and model plane enthusiasts congregate on the open plain still being watered by hundreds of sprinklers installed to give Olympic visitors the impression of a green sward. This is also the haunt of gatherers of wild greens, bending over the winter growth with their plastic bags and sharp knives. Cyclists young and old enjoy the open spaces where children can be allowed free rein with their Christmas presents of toy cars and tricycles. Dog walkers complete the picture. Pending any further landscaping interventions and decisions on the use of the site, and considering both the customary slow pace of change when not hurried by Olympic deadlines, as well as the tightened purse strings that inevitably follow an event like the Olympics, much could be done to maintain the area for those already enjoying it. Along the coastal walk one recent Sunday morning, when dozens of locals were out enjoying the winter sunshine, the path was littered with flotsam washed up onto the concourse by winter storms. Apart from the usual rubbish were the carcasses of what one hoped were just drowned cats, although their shape was suspiciously akin to that of very large rats. Stray dogs roaming the area seemed bent on chasing the flying ankles of cyclists. Lighting and patrolling would keep the area from being the haunt of less desirable elements at night. Previous to the Games, the entire area came under the administrative jurisdiction of two municipalities – Kallithea (from the Faliron Delta to the Ilissos River) and Moschato (from the Ilissos to the Kifissos River). Although no longer officially in charge of the site since the Olympic venues were built, Kallithea Municipality has undertaken to clean its end of the site from time to time. Deputy Mayor Theodoros Psalidopoulos told Kathimerini English Edition the municipality was negotiating with the Culture Ministry regarding its future role in the site. They would like to see the soccer field that stood there before the Games rebuilt for the use of local clubs. «We would like a clarification of our role in the area and are expecting a reply soon,» he said. Moschato residents no longer have direct access to the coast because of the new tramlines. «The plan, according to the Olympic project, was for parkland, a bird sanctuary at the Kifissos Delta and walkways, but no buildings. So far, there has been nothing definite, however. We are waiting to see,» said Giorgos Faklaris, technical and zoning director at Moschato Town Hall. When the bill finally gets to Parliament, there will no doubt be great local interest and the hope that yet another chance will not be missed to give Athens a seafront worthy of a Mediterranean capital. Original plans for area included ecological park Plans for the Faliron Bay area announced before the Games to be completed in the post-Olympic period included an ecological park and open-air swimming area, and a 56.5-meter-wide and 4-meter-deep canal in the Moschato area designed to protect both Moschato and Tzitzifies from the floodwaters of the Ilissos River and the Moschato and Kallithea floodwater channels. During construction of the Olympic venues, work on the canal commenced at three points (the Ilissos, Moschato and Kallithea). If completed, the project will form two small islands, one of which will be the site of the ecological park and the open-air swimming area. The second island was to have cultural and sporting venues and a maritime sports facility. Coastal Poseidonos Avenue would pass behind the two islands after work on the canal is finished. There were plans for sports venues, theaters, cinemas, conference halls, cultural venues and refreshment stands. Zoning regulations do not envisage hotels, entertainment centers, golf courses, casinos or residential buildings.