Plans are made, changed and postponed indefinitely

In the case of the Greek capital, architecture was not just eliminated from the Olympic works themselves: Large-scale projects to upgrade the urban environment, the image and functioning of the capital – the incremental benefits of being an Olympic city – have to a large extent been canceled. What perhaps hurts the most is the abandonment of the ambitious scheme to to reclaim the coastal strip at Faliron. An international architectural competition (won by the Digenis office, in collaboration with a top name in architecture, the Italian Vittorio Gregotti) was held, but the project will not go ahead. For this, sole responsibility rests with the Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) and its former minister, Vasso Papandreou, who almost a year ago (on Environment Day) announced it as one of the most important projects for the future of Athens. The coastal strip is probably heading for those familiar, last-minute touch-ups while the much-bruited reclamation scheme has been deferred to a distant future. Thus a unique opportunity to create an esplanade (and cycling route) 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long has been lost, together with an expanse of hundreds of acres that would be accessible to people. YPEHODE’s excuse is that approval of the presidential decree on the land use of the coastal strip that the Organization of Athens submitted is still pending. Until that approval, chaos continues to reign and everyone, both the ministry and the Organization of Athens, show themselves to be satisfied. The other works promised by the ministry are in little better shape. Progress in most of them proved to be exceptionally expensive and followed a depressingly similar pattern: After impressive announcements, neat studies and schemes are gradually trimmed, subjected to fresh, greater cuts, and materialize only when absolutely necessary. The situation in the city center is disappointing: The Olympic Games will not leave us a single work of architecture to remind future generations of the great event. Omonia is being patched up anew, Monastiraki Square will be in a dire state when it greets the world, Syntagma Square is engaged in a race against time, and as for urban facilities – the subject is better dropped. Broken paving stones, cars parked everywhere (on sidewalks and pedestrian precincts) dirt and mess prevail. The municipality has promised to give its all in the next few months – but we have become distrustful of such pledges.

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