CULTURE

Municipalities fear for Faliron

As the government prepares to release its bill on the post-Olympic use of the Games venues and their surroundings, local municipalities around Faliron Bay are making their objections known after last week’s announcements by Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia indicating there would be more construction and grants to commercial interests in the complexes than had been provided for in previous ministry plans. Demonstration The Municipality of Kallithea is holding a demonstration this Sunday at noon in Tzitzifies Square (at the bottom of Thiseos Avenue) to protest the changes. Although the ministers said the bill would only allow a maximum of 10 percent of the buildings at each site to be used for commercial activity, Kallithea officials fear that an open area formerly occupied by the racetrack, which they want to be turned into a park, might be overrun by commercial interests after the ministers said it could be used for a «theme park.» «An attempt is being made to change both the content and the philosophy of the presidential decree that gave priority to athletic and cultural activities in this area,» Kallithea Mayor Costas Askounis told Kathimerini English Edition this week. «We have to decide whether we view sports and culture as there for the benefit of society as a whole, or as products to be exploited commercially,» he added. «There are well-founded reports that an attempt is being made to increase the building coefficient for the old racetrack, even though the plan was for a green space with free access to the public. Things are being changed without a dialogue.» Askounis said that a committee representing all factions on the municipal council had visited the relevant minister, Fanni Palli-Petralia, and other government officials in January regarding the construction of the sports stadiums provided for in the presidential decree. «Before the Games, we had three stadiums along the coast. Now our athletes are training at a stadium in Alimos, where they have been given time from 10.30 p.m. until midnight. We suggested that we rebuild the stadiums at our own cost, but that idea was rejected,» he said. Moschato Meanwhile, in neighboring Moschato, the town council is planning to «make a strong protest» if the government does not fulfill its promises as set out in the plan by the Organization of Athens and the Environment and Public Works Ministry for the Faliron coast (between the Kifissos and Ilissos river estuaries) that comes within the municipality’s jurisdiction. «These included a bird park on the Ilissos estuary and, on the rest of the site, a recreation area not only for the residents of Moschato but for all of Attica. The plan provided for a soccer training stadium, six other sports stadiums and an open-air swimming pool. There were no provisions for commercial activity,» said the deputy mayor responsible for the environment, Andreas Efthymiou. One of the biggest problems that has always faced Moschato, which lies at the lowest point in Attica, between two rivers that serve as storm water channels for the rest of Athens, has been flooding. Officials say the problem has been exacerbated by the embankments constructed along the coastal road for the tramlines. The municipality is adamant that the state abides by its original plan to complete flood control projects. «It should be a matter of immediate priority to bring the tramlines down to the level of the road. We had pointed out the dangers right from the start of raising the tramlines even a centimeter above road level,» he said. «Instead, they built embankments that have created potential dangers, not only for Moschato but for Kallithea and (Neo) Faliron. Plans for a canal, like that in Mikrolimano, which would have completed the flood control measures, appear to have been forgotten.» «We pointed this out to (the state authorities) at the outset, the documentation is there. If this situation continues, we will take action,» he added. «The tramlines have also blocked pedestrian access to the coast. The only way in now is for the very fit, who can climb up over the lines,» he said. «We insist that the agreements we made with the Athens Organization and the Environment and Public Works Ministry be carried out to the letter,» said Efthymiou. «It appears that they are now trying to change the terms of that agreement, at least according to the information we have.» Meanwhile, the municipalities say they are not responsible for any deterioration of the area, such as the accumulation of rubbish, as, according to the terms of the contract with the state, the contractors who built the complexes are responsible for maintaining them for two years after the Games. Opposition parties The new proposals have already led to protests from members of the opposition. «The draft law’s image is… defined by two main factors – the cementing over of everything and putting economic interests before the unfettered use of the sites by the masses,» said PASOK Deputy Maria Damanaki, who reiterated her party’s demands for a parliamentary committee to discuss the subject before the bill is submitted to Parliament. «The overall picture is that the government is reducing even further the amount of free space in Athens and is looking for investment opportunities that are clearly to the detriment of the environment and citizens’ quality of life,» said Synaspismos Left Coalition Deputy Michalis