Contracts on Olympic venue operation soon

Olympic Properties SA, the company set to manage Olympic venues, will soon call tenders to cede management of some of them to private investors, company president Christos Hadjiemmanouil said yesterday. Speaking at «Prodexpo 2005,» a conference on property development, Hadjiemmanouil said that it was very important to introduce private sector capital and know-how into the management and development of the venues. He added that any contracts signed would be «transparent» and would not give developers a free hand. The company will set «strict criteria and specifications» demanding, notably, that the venues remain accessible to the local communities and that any extra works required be financed by the developers themselves. Immediate priority will be given, however, to contracts on safe-keeping and maintenance to specialized private sector companies to prevent deterioration and looting. Hadjiemmanouil said the experience of state maintenance and management of major venues, such as the main Olympic sports complex at Maroussi and the Peace and Friendship Stadium, an indoor arena in Piraeus, had been negative. It is precisely these two venues, however, which will remain in the care of the state. «The (tendering) process has already begun for all those properties with no pending town planning or development issues,» Hadjiemmanouil said. He added, however, that «planning for the most important groups of properties, such as the Faliron and Hellinikon complexes, does not allow for immediate (tendering) without further talks… There will be a dialogue with public and private agencies on solutions acceptable to local communities… This is the key to the success of post-Olympics efforts.» Olympic venues have been widely praised by foreign sports officials and athletes and their financial value is great. This, Hadjiemmanouil said, means that they must remain widely accessible, something not incompatible with private participation in their operation. They must also generate enough income to remain viable. Hadjiemmanouil also stressed that the venues must not compete with each other but must complement each other. «Athens does not need 14 new large spaces for occasional cultural events nor 11 conference halls. It needs permanent operational infrastructure… and suitable supporting activities, including commercial use.»