IOC urged to assist in Olympic sites’ upkeep

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) ought to look into the issue of the post-Olympic use of installations and cooperate more with sports federations to this end, Leo Wallner, Austrian Olympic Committee president and head of Casinos Austria, told Kathimerini. Visiting Greece on the occasion of an honorary event to honor composer Mikis Theodorakis at Club Hotel Casino Loutraki, whose major shareholder is Casinos Austria, Wallner explained that the Athens Olympics specifically raised the issue. One year on, most installations remain unused, with their security and maintenance proving a hard task. «Post-Olympic use of venues is always a problem,» Wallner said, admitting that it is a problem which burdens the host country first and foremost. «Yet I think we have not yet looked into the issue as much as we should have,» he stressed, attributing it to the fact that the IOC is exclusively engaged with the Olympic Games while other issues are handled by other federations. At present, the IOC’s cooperation with federations and any influence it has on them have focused on dealing with the problem of doping and not on the post-Olympic use of installations. «I believe this is an issue that we should look into and work toward closer cooperation between the IOC and the sports federations,» said the president of the Austrian Olympic Committee, so as to have more major events, such as continental or world championships, held in countries that have invested in venues for hosting the Olympics. He did note, however, that there is also the issue of distributing important events among the various countries. There now are venues in many parts of the world that can host important sports events; many countries want to undertake such events and would not like it if a country that had just held the Olympics were also granted other international events. «This, of course, does not answer the question of what will happen to venues after the Olympics or a world championship; it even aggravates the problem,» Wallner commented. Olympics overloaded International meetings are becoming ever more important in sports, while new sports are created and developed, vying for slots on the Olympic program. However, the IOC member said, the Games are already burdened with too many sports that must be fitted into two weeks of competition. «We have now left out two sports, baseball and softball, which are very expensive as they require stadiums to be built that afterward remain unused like monuments if these sports are not popular in the host country,» Wallner said, adding that «IOC President [Jacques] Rogge wants to limit the cost of the Games, otherwise it will only be big countries that are able to host the Olympics.» Greece, on the other hand, has been a good example, proving that a small country can also host the Games successfully. «At some point, we in the IOC had many reservations due to the delays; we were afraid you would not finish everything in time,» Wallner admitted, but took the opportunity to say that the Athens Olympics were «excellent; in my view, the best ever,» and praised the behavior and hospitality of the Greeks. As regards the costs, Wallner suggested they were hard to calculate, especially the cost of security. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the world has changed and fears culminated over the possibility of a terrorist strike, since an event like the Summer Olympics, particularly the Opening Ceremony, is watched by up to 3 billion viewers, providing a major opportunity to make an impression. Kathimerini asked Wallner whether he would advise his country, which is similar to Greece in population and economic figures, to bid for the Summer Olympics. «In Austria, we specialize in the Winter Olympics. Salzburg is actually presently bidding for the 2010 Winter Games and it would be hard to mix this with bidding for the Summer Games,» he said. He does concede that the Winter Games are much smaller than the summer events, «only a third of the summer ones, there is no comparison really.» «Personally I was disappointed when Greece was not given the centenary Olympics [of 1996], as this is where the Olympic Idea was born,» the IOC member said, explaining that the final choice is always a complex issue of international negotiation.