An Olympic green nightmare

When announced in late 2001, the promise sounded nice – but improbable. Two-and-a-half years later, few of the 100 million-odd plants that were supposed to beautify the new Olympic Athens are in place, and experts now warn that summer planting schedules will spell an early death for whatever greenery does materialize. According to the vice president of the association of agriculturalists employed in public works, Costas Matsoukas, some 90 percent of the greenery earmarked for the immediate surroundings of the city’s Olympic venues will have been planted before the Games start. However, only 10 percent of the 3.3 million trees, 14.4 million bushes, 16 million flowering plants and 67.5 million other plants the PASOK government promised in October 2001 are expected to be in place. Even at the sports venues, construction delays will result in workers still planting trees and shrubs up until the opening ceremony. Most of the work will take place in the hot month of July, while the proper planting period is between January and April. «Under such circumstances, plants are like prematurely born babies,» Matsoukas said. In order to keep them alive, gardeners will use special machinery to create artificial rain at night. And unless properly looked after, most of the greenery is expected to have withered and died in three years’ time. Experts also complain that extensive planting of thirsty grass will result in severe abuse of the capital’s limited water resources. Figures provided by the General Secretariat for Sport show that 0.6 hectares of lawn require 42 cubic meters of water a day. According to agriculturalist Michalis Stoyiannos, 150 trees and 8,000 bushes can get by on no more than 32 cubic meters.

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