ECONOMY

Olympic venues being tapped

In detailed statements last week, main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis charged the government with having abandoned the Olympic installations to disuse and decay two years after the successful staging of the Games. Among other things, he mentioned that the coastal area between the Peace and Friendship Stadium and the tae kwon do stadium in the Faliron Delta has become a rubbish dump, and that the nearby area where the former horse-racing track once was is still an empty expanse. As the Greek taxpayer paid huge sums for the Olympic projects, it is natural that the sorry state of most of them, which are just sitting abandoned and unguarded, will cause some outrage. Especially when the present government had promised that the works, through privatizations and concessions to social and local government agencies, will become poles of development and cultural activities. However, during a brief chat with Dimitris Hadziemmanuil, president of Olympic Properties, the public company assigned the utilization of the installations, I found that if not twisting the truth, PASOK was certainly exaggerating. Athanassakis, for instance, referred to the «abandonment» and «destruction» of the rowing center, when only last week it had been the venue for the successful staging of the Mediterranean Games. The truth is that the present government has been late in drawing up and implementing a program for putting Olympic venues to good use. Responsibility for the delay lies not only with Olympic Properties, but also the ministers who have not been able to coordinate themselves and instruct their departments appropriately. As Hadziemmanuil told me, of the 15 installations that Olympic Properties has been assigned, three have already been passed on to private management, following open tenders a few months ago, and are already producing revenues that will go a long way toward meeting the cost of overseeing and maintenance of all such venues, estimated at 100 million euros annually. More tenders are expected in the coming months, while the Public Real Estate Company has prepared an ambitious plan of tourism development for the former horse-racing track. Among the facilities that are to become poles of development, the government will surely have to include the 5,000 hectares at the old airport at Hellenikon, which are just lying idle.