What to do with Olympic venues is next on the agenda

In the months before the Olympic Games there were serious doubts about Athens’s readiness to host the world’s biggest sporting festival. In the end, the Greek way of doing things prevailed – everything was ready at the last minute – and the promised state-of-the-art venues were ready for the first day of competition. The multibillion-dollar question now is what lies ahead for the 35 competition venues and 72 training facilities – the main contributor to the overall cost of at least 10 billion euros ($12.1 billion). «Unfortunately, there isn’t any plan,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said last week. Some pre-Games venues, such as the soccer stadiums, will revert to normal duty, while others will be dismantled. Only the fate of non-competition venues, such as the huge media centers and accommodation for the tens of thousands of athletes, officials and journalists, has been decided. The buildings will become exhibition and conference centers, a police academy training ground, government offices and private and public housing. The Olympic Stadium complex, which includes the aquatic center, the tennis center, the indoor arena and the main stadium, will remain the country’s premier sports site where champions will be allowed to train. The stadium itself will be rented out by several Athens soccer teams for European and domestic matches. But the complex comes with a hefty maintenance bill – officials estimate the upkeep will be about 100 million euros a year. Roussopoulos has said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who came to power in March, asked his ministers during the Games to come up with ideas on what to do with the facilities. The government has put together a commission of 33 members who should announce a schedule for the post-Olympic use of the venues just after the Games. «They will find a use between the public use of the venues and cooperation with the private sector as well,» he said. The head of the state company managing 14 Olympic facilities said some of these were handed over to Games organizers without being contractually finished. «They cannot be considered completed yet,» said Christos Hadziemmanuel, the head of Olympic Properties SA. «The priority was on Olympic use and there was not enough planning for the day after.» Local mayors have already said they cannot afford to pay for the facilities. «Municipalities are not financially prepared to take up such a huge task,» said Athens Deputy Mayor Theodoros Skylakakis. «I believe that without the private sector we cannot meet the cost.» (Reuters)

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