NEWS

The day after 2004

As the Athens 2004 Olympics approach, businessmen and politicians have begun to focus on what Greece will be like, what problems and opportunities it will face, when the lights have gone out and the athletes and the crowds have gone home. Optimists and pessimists had an opportunity to debate the issue at a conference organized by the International Herald Tribune yesterday. «Greece at the Crossroads: The Aftermath of the Olympic Games 2004,» included speakers such as New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Barcelona Mayor Joan Clos, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Foreign Minister George Papandreou. The conference was opened by European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou. Karamanlis spoke of fears among members of the public that there was no strategic plan for the day after the Olympics. He noted that the situation could be changed if new policies were adopted. In a speech that reflected the fact that Greece is heading for elections by early May, Karamanlis declared that he committed himself to making no changes that would affect the preparations for the Games. Christodoulakis, the finance minister, was optimistic, saying that after 2004 more funds would be freed and would go toward developing Greece’s regions. But the split between pessimists and optimists was also evident in a poll among 638 owners and senior executives of Greek businesses which was released at the conference. Regarding the day after, 68.5 percent believe the Olympics will have strengthened Greece’s standing in Europe to a greater or lesser extent, 20.6 percent believe it will be about the same and 6.9 percent expect it to worsen. However, 25.9 percent said they expected an economic crisis after 2004, 25.1 percent expect no great change, another 25.1 percent expect the economy to worsen and 21.5 percent expect improvement. The nationwide poll was conducted by Kapa Research from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4. It found that 54.6 percent said Greece had made significant progress in the past few years and narrowed the gap from other developed European countries, 33.6 percent said the situation had not changed much and 10.2 percent said the gap had widened. Also, 53.6 percent saw progress in 2000-2004, 20.4 percent saw stagnation and 24.5 percent said things had worsened.