Refurbishment of the site sees cutbacks as deadlines draw close

The International Water Sports Federation (FINA) has written three letters protesting about the long delay on work at the OAKA swimming pool. Though government officials repeatedly promised that everything would be ready in March, now work is not scheduled for completion before the end of May. FINA is well within its rights to object, as the test event in diving is being held at the pool this week. The fact that the current state of OAKA will be on view not just to leading athletes but to 40 foreign journalists is a major headache for the government. Only 9,000 trees The area around OAKA resembles a quarry. Despite the promises and commitments made by those in charge, work on refurbishing the area is still in its infancy. Under pressure of time, cutbacks have already begun. Last week it became known that instead of 17,000 trees, which were to aesthetically unite the area according to Calatrava’s plan, only 9,000 will be planted. The consortium that has undertaken the project will not suffer much loss of revenue, sources say, as the trees will be replaced by tiles and other features. Calatrava’s streams and other visual effects cannot be implemented until work on the various stadiums in the complex is finished. Extensive work is also needed on other parts of the sports complex (such as underground corridors for the athletes). Given the current state of progress, cutbacks will be required in other parts of the original plan. Calatrava saw the abolition of the dome he designed for Nerantziotissa station, which was to link the subway and the suburban railway. It isn’t known if the government has asked for the money for the study to be refunded, but the contractors claim that the architect was not responsible for the construction of the dome. They say he believed that Attiki Odos (which goes directly underneath the station) would have to be closed for months in order to set up the cranes to install the roof at Nerantziotissa. Along with that roof went a footpath that was to go from the station across OAKA. Thousands of Athenians who use the ISAP railway every day have seen no progress at Nerantziotissa, where there are two temporary cement platforms on which some rubble has been left. For the record, during the official presentation of Calatrava’s design in January 2002, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos stated that the project would be completed in April 2004. «Our objective,» said Venizelos, «is aesthetic unification and the acquisition of an architectural and aesthetic identity; full accessibility to the area, especially to Paralympic athletes and people with disabilities; total respect for the environment with ecological design criteria and planting in the surrounding area; the formation of a public space that will also operate independently of sporting events; and of course the use of materials that make the place look modern (steel and glass) and which also allow us to do a lot of the work away from the worksite so as not to hamper the rest of the work and to save time so that the project is ready in time, that is in April 2004.» The competition for the «aesthetic unification» of OAKA, budgeted at 77.42 million euros, was assigned to a consortium led by the TERNA technical company. Seven consortia had shown interest and repeated appeals to the Council of State caused a long delay before the project was assigned.