Life in Athens won’t be over after 2004

Few landmark years have raised so many hopes as 2004. Neither our salvation nor the beginning of all our woes, the milestone year is here, with its political skirmishes, abrupt changes and the great and small events of everyday life. In fact, it’s a year like any other. The Olympic Games engendered many hopes in Athens. In 2004, we were going to wake up in another city, with new roads, interchanges, a subway, tramway, suburban railway and certainly new museums. This year held a lot of promise for Greece’s limited cultural infrastructure. A few years ago, nobody would have believed that Athens would greet the great event without a Museum of Contemporary Art or a decent building for the state opera company. Even what looked like surefire projects (such the New Acropolis Museum) are still in the works. It is just now becoming apparent that we can expect a great deal more after 2004 than before the Games. After this year, Athens’s cultural infrastructure is due for a boost from seven major construction projects which will either begin at the end of this year or in mid-2005, or are well on the way to completion. Compared with the three projects due for completion in time for the Games (extension of the Athens Concert Hall, the National Sculpture Gallery in Goudi, and the new branch of the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street) then the balance is firmly in favor of the post-Olympic era. And this doesn’t even include the dubious dowry of the Olympic installations. It has already been decided that the beach volleyball stadium in Neo Faliron will become a culture venue and the indoor stadium at Goudi will be used for concerts. Some matters are still outstanding. Work on the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Rizari Park is supposed to start immediately after the Games, but local residents are not at all keen and have threatened another appeal to the Council of State. As for the renovation of the Olympia Theater and its extension into an empty block on Harilaou Trikoupi Street, there have been no developments since the prime minister first announced it.