‘We’ve given the city’s gray buildings some color’ in the successful facade refurbishment project
The Olympic Games begin on Friday. Have you done your duty as the mayor of Athens? What has changed in the city? For a start, as far as I am concerned, the refurbishment of Athens has no expiry date. The major projects had expiry dates, as did the measures we set as a goal. And we haven’t just achieved that goal, we’ve surpassed it. I’m not just talking in generalities, I can give you details. In a year and a half, out of which only eight months were left for action on the ground, we asphalted 250 kilometers (155 miles) of road in every area of Athens. We rebuilt 250,000 square meters of sidewalks along new lines, making them accessible to people of limited mobility. We installed lighting along tens of thousands of kilometers of streets that had not had street lighting before. We revolutionized street cleaning with new regulations, 500 new employees, 235 new vehicles of all types and 5,000 new collection bins. We added 70 new garbage trucks to the 50 we already had. Everyone can see that Athens, the city which bears the greatest burden, has become perceptibly cleaner. We set up the new Municipal Police Force along new lines with 478 newly appointed police officers. Facades Most important of all, we have given the city’s gray buildings some color. To give you an idea of what we have achieved, here’s a comparison. Barcelona renovated 2,700 facades in seven years, and we did 1,500 in eight months. And there were more than 2,500 applications. I’d like to say more about the facades project, which was an obvious success. I’d like to thank Athenians for their response. More than 20,000 apartment owners responded to Athens Municipality’s invitation and I thank them. That is why we will continue the program after the Games. I would also like to thank the sponsor companies that contributed to the renovation of apartment blocks in six city squares. Some say that the projects built in Athens for the Olympics will remain but that there are no activities in the social policy area. I think we have attained a balance. For a start, the projects have been divided up equally among all the city wards. There has been work on infrastructure, greenery and facades in all neighborhoods, even the most rundown. As for social policy, I can give you specific data. In 2004, our budget for social welfare expenditure increased by 30 percent. At our municipal radio station Athena 9.84, we created a new foreign-language station in cooperation with the BBC and RFI, which broadcasts in 13 languages, covering all of the languages spoken by residents of the city. Many speak of an undeclared war with the president of Athens 2004, of friction, tension and antagonism. How do you get on with Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki? Very well. We are all working for a common goal and I have no proprietary sense, nor do I feel the need to divide things up. My great aim is for my country to derive the greatest benefit from the Olympic Games, to make the most of the great effort made by the Greek people in all fields. Athens, with its needs, its demands, its expectations and its hopes will be there after September 30, and the Municipality of Athens is doing its duty by establishing solid foundations for the post-Olympics period. That is why we are going ahead with projects that are an investment in the city’s future. We have implemented the largest investment program the municipality has ever seen, spending 120 million euros, setting our horizon as Athens of the next decade, not of August 2004. I believe that this strategy, based on a long-term developmental approach, is a policy that overrides personality, egotism, personal antagonism and minor disagreements. It is a policy that benefits the place, creates new prospects for Athens and serves the people of this city. What will happen after the Olympics? Completion of my work at the Municipality of Athens. We have already done a huge amount of work. Like everyone else, I see problems all around me that need solving in this city. I never relax my vigilance and I am never satisfied.