NEWS

2004 Games sponsorships to go under the microscope

Undertaking the organization of the Olympic Games is a difficult task and even those who were in favor of Athens taking on the challenge understood it. When Athens was assigned the 2004 Games, everybody knew that great effort would be required for the country to come out of the experience unscathed. Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, the former general secretary and president of the Greek Basketball Association and current president of the International Basketball Association’s European office, was against the idea from the start. As a member of the Greek Olympic Committee (EOE) he believes that current events justify his original objections. «It is a well-known fact that when organizing the Games, while many are called to pay – namely the organizing country’s citizens – very few actually make any profit – meaning the big contractors. The government had to fight for the organization of the Games because of major interests, which is the case with all cities contesting for the Games,» he explains. This statement is striking, coming from an old and active member of PASOK who was also a personal friend of Andreas Papandreou, the former president of PASOK. «There is total lack of transparency, coming from both the government and the 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC). I don’t understand why, since they will have to justify amounts anyway,» he claims. In which sectors is there a lack of transparency? According to the contract for the Games’ organization, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a profit of 5 percent of the estimated value of all contracts related to the plan for commercial development and the common program for commercial development. The same applies to EOE’s share, as part of the shared program for commercial development. In practice, however, we don’t know how much the sponsorships and the commercial transactions will provide, therefore we don’t even know if EOE is receiving its estimated share. It is not only in EOE’s best interest to follow ATHOC’s financial progress, but it is also their duty, since they will have to render accounts. About a year and a half ago, we asked to see all the sponsorships as well as the commercial transactions, but received no official reply. We were merely told that this could not be done because the information was confidential. We contacted them once more, sending a letter but in that case we did not even receive an oral reply. We are insisting on intervention from the government, and even the IOC, to force ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki to give us copies of all the contracts. There are major interests in the field of sponsorships and maybe they want to avoid disclosing who is behind the sponsoring programs.» Why? I can’t say because I have no evidence and that is why I want them to give us the contracts. EOE will go to the district attorney, if necessary, in order to get hold of the contracts related to all of ATHOC’s financial activities. Full responsibility lies with the government because all ATHOC members have been appointed. I believe that the organizing strategy is wrong: Too many factors are involved, namely ministries, sub-ministries and committees, and this has resulted in so many different funds that it is very difficult to estimate the overall costs of the organization. We will end up finding out in 2006, with the rise in national debt. Vassilakopoulos stresses that an overall budget has yet to be submitted. «So far, only individual budgets exist and every so often new sums are announced which quickly alter the previous picture. Although it was initially estimated that Greece would benefit from the Olympic Games, this is no longer valid, which just shows how bad the organization is. For instance, the Olympic Village has not been included in the budget. Attica does not need another 20,000 residencies and the Village is an environmental disaster. All the works toward Attica’s development, such as the metro, the new airport and the Stavros-Elefsina ring road had been planned beforehand and have nothing to do with the Games. They say that ATHOC’s budget is balanced, but how could that be when only 120 billion drachmas (352 million euros) has been given by the State? They also say that the Games cannot take place without the sponsors, yet sponsorships will only provide for about 9-10 percent of the total cost, therefore, Greek citizens will have to cover most of the expenses. «All the delays, apart from making a bad impression and causing a lot of stress, have also resulted in organizational problems. Right now we do not know where the soccer final will take place and the basketball court has also been delayed. This will cause major problems in ticket issuing and security, because until the construction is completed, we cannot know the exact number of seats. Last-minute arrangements have nothing to do with the Games.» Had this been the basis of your disagreement from the start? Yes, as well as my belief that the Games today have nothing to do with those that took place in ancient Greece, because of doping and commercialization. I have nothing against the Games themselves, but I disagree with the form they have taken. But since we were chosen to host them, we should try to organize them with the least possible expense.