The Athens Odeion remains one of the city’s neglected offspring

The magic wand that is transforming Athens in view of the Olympic Games has yet to touch the Athens Odeion. Despite its key location a few hundred meters from the Panathenaic Stadium, the Odeion has been the epitome of neglect for decades. The half-finished building and its surrounding area show the ravages of time and state indifference, just when there is reason to hope that the entire plot of land will be reshaped by the extension of the Byzantine Museum, the presentation of the ruins of Aristotle’s Lyceum and the completion of the nearby underground car park. You don’t need to live near the Odeion to be aware of the state of the neo-rationalist building designed by Ioannis Despotopoulos and the terraced garden that separates it from Vassileos Constantinou Avenue. This is where local dogs relieve themselves. It is where youngsters cut risky moves with their skateboards and cause fearful damage to the once-shiny marble. It becomes a makeshift shelter in the summer for Indians awaiting documents from their embassy nearby. Untended, dried-out grass adds a final touch to this picture of neglect. The interior of the building has fared no better, with faded paint, broken marble, electric cables and sockets dangling from the ceilings and an ill-fitting metal door providing elementary security. A glance through the smudged window panes reveals that not a single nail has been put in for years. On the first floor, which has supposedly been finished, poor lighting and obvious cracks caused by earthquakes evoke the sad sense of its dilapidation. Is this any suitable environment for pupils of the Odeion and musicians from the State Orchestra of Athens (KOA), who hold their rehearsals there? The shameful history of the building reflects unfavorably on practically all post-dictatorship governments, but particularly on Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has frequently promised that a solution was in sight. The Odeion’s construction began in 1969 and the music school was accommodated there in 1976. Although the State had agreed to complete the building at its own expense within five years, it left the building untouched while KOA paid a fortune for its accommodation. Since then, millions of euros have been lavished on venues for classical music but no EU funds have been spent on getting this building completed. The ground floor – where the orchestra stoically rehearses in a long narrow room – is half-finished, as is the entire basement floor, which includes an 800-seat concert hall, a church for the Byzantine music school and other rooms, all grimed with the dust of nearly 30 years of state indifference.