Olympia stadium may host yet more games

When the ancient stadium at Olympia was ceded to the Athens Olympics in 2004 to host the shot-put competition, the Culture Ministry said then that it was a one-off just for the Games. It turns out that it was not a one-off as the General Secretariat of Sports is hatching plans to hold a string of events there even though archaeologists continue to stress that it could be detrimental to the ancient monument. The proposal, which was presented to the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) in a mad rush and which will have to be examined more closely, outlines an international track and field meeting at the stadium on May 14, with the participation of 170 athletes in a four- to five-hour event. Last week KAS said it was going over the proposal and voiced concern that the installations for the sports, though prefabricated, could present a problem. An additional problem the council found was that the proposal stated the installations would weigh up to 12 tons, but other calculations put this figure at 125 tons. The proposal includes an eight-lane track of 150 meters in length made of light materials, as well as three rows of 200 mobile seats. The tiers of the ancient stadium are expected to accommodate 15,000 spectators. The aim is to create a luxurious sports spectacle with appearances by members of government and by the International Athletics Federation. The immediate reaction of the archaeological authorities was negative, as they quoted Article 10 of the archaeological charter which protects ancient sites from wear and tear. The project organizers, however, have stated that all constructions would be elevated off the ground and well padded underneath so as not to harm any part of the site on which they rest. Nevertheless, they have not carried out a survey of the ground and soil stability. There was also much dissent regarding the large number of people that would be tramping around the tiers of the stadium. Furthermore, while the structures would take just 12 days to install, it would take a full year to pull them down. KAS is due to hear the issue again in the near future and in the meantime intends to examine new proposals, such as charging entrance to the spectators so that they may cover the costs of returning the stadium to its initial form after the meet.