ECONOMY

Prefabricated housing likely for media villages

Preparation of the media villages that will host some 8,000 journalists from all over the world during the Athens 2004 Olympics is lagging behind. This worries organizers Athens 2004 who will propose the use of prefabricated housing units in at least part of the villages. In a meeting with the Public Works Ministry and the Culture Ministry’s General Secretariat for the Olympic Games, Athens 2004 will propose the use of 5-7,000 prefabricated units. The argument for the use of prefabricated, rather than permanent, structures, is threefold: they are easier to put in place, they can be re-sold after the Games and they can be used as shelter in case of natural disaster, such as the Athens earthquake in September 1999, which left 143 dead and tens of thousands homeless. It is the Environment and Public Works Ministry which has undertaken the building of the media villages. So far, it is cool to the idea of prefabricated structures. However, as time passes and deadlines loom, such a solution may become imperative, not only for villages, but for other projects as well. That would, of course, diminish the vaunted legacy of the games for the city. Even though the decision has been made to build the villages in four areas: at the armed forces’ summer resorts in Aghios Andreas east of Athens; the Police Academy installations near the future Olympic Village; in Pallini, east of Athens, and in Maroussi near the Olympic Stadium. There are problems concerning each proposal. In the case of the army resort, a plan for the refurbishment of existing installations is not yet ready, and the International Olympic Committee has expressed reservations about its use because it is far from the main venues. As for the Police Academy installations, no cost estimate study has yet been made. The two other media villages, in Pallini and Maroussi will supposedly be financed by their respective owners, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and a group of private investors. There are a lot of things to do before work can begin, such as incorporating the areas into the city plan and changing the building code. These, maily bureaucratic, obstacles, make a timely completion of the project very difficult. The total number of foreign media representatives will exceed 20,000. About 8-10,000, not including those to be housed at media villages, will be housed in hotels and on yachts, which means that a way must be found to house at least another 2-4,000 people. For this reason, additional media villages will be built in locations specified by the new Olympic Bill submitted to Parliament last week.