Athens Olympics chief says Games paid off for country

BOSTON (AP) – More than a year after the Athens Olympics, the Games’ chief organizer says Greece is still reaping the benefits from hosting the event despite its huge cost. «I do believe the Games paid off for Greece and Athens,» Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. «There have been so many changes for the better.» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who is widely credited with rescuing the Games from near collapse, said Athens is still enjoying the modern transit system, new airport, boosted security systems and updated telecommunications put in place for the Olympics. She also said employment has continued to go up, partly because of a significant jump in tourism after the Olympics. She said Greece has seen a 15 percent jump in tourism, and Athens a 20 percent rise, this year. Americans, she added, are making up a high percentage of the increase. «This is a testament to the effectiveness of our exposure during the Games,» she said. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was in Boston to give a speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She acknowledged that there were still some issues that may affect Greece’s post-Olympic legacy. She said the enormous costs of the Games have caused the people of Greece to pay «more now than they should have had to pay for the pride, growth and respect that are their Olympic legacy.» She said it’s important that the venues built for the Games be used. Many have remained empty since the Games or not realized their potential, she said. Greece had initially planned to spend about $5.5 billion on the Olympics but the price tag soared due to construction delays and terrorism concerns. Final numbers have not been released.

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