ECONOMY

Olympic missed opportunities

The final bill for this year’s Olympic Games is certainly going to be high for Greek taxpayers, but this was known before. Of course, no one in their right mind believed initial assurances by the last government that it would be able to balance the budget for the event. Most people looked forward to the growth potential that the necessary projects would create by improving Greece’s productivity. Benefits were also expected to materialize from the overall promotion of the image of the country abroad, in the form of revenues from tourism and the many sports facilities, thus attracting foreign investment and improving export performance. The follow-up, however, proved to be a series of missed opportunities which is ongoing. To begin with, a considerable number of infrastructure projects and sports facilities are not yet ready and so considerable revenue has been lost from sports events in which many athletes wishing to get acquainted with the venues in advance would have participated. Tourism also seems to have missed a great opportunity, as the inflow of visitors this year is not expected to be particularly satisfactory. Hotels in Athens and the other Greek Olympic cities may be booked up already but this is not so in the rest of the country. Moreover, the Olympic rentals program for private accommodation is by all accounts a failure for lack of demand. Now, at the end of April, the last opportunity also seems likely to be missed. Attracting foreign investment and export promotion look like remaining pipe dreams. It may true that private enterprise agencies are planning relevant initiatives; these, however, cannot be effective without adequate government support. But the responsible agencies, such as the Hellenic Center for Investment, the External Trade Organization and the Venture Capital Fund, are in a state of inertia after the change of government. Some of their heads have resigned and others have remained, waiting for their replacements to arrive. It seems that when the required internal balances within the government have been restored and the new heads are appointed, we shall then enter the phase of taking stock of the Olympic Games.