NEWS

Greeks see off Games with pride, relief

Pride, mixed with large doses of relief, was the prevalent sentiment among Athenians as they said farewell to the Olympics yesterday. «The Games were a very pleasant experience, a real celebration and we enjoyed it a lot. But it’s about time they finished,» said Stergios Hadzistergiou, an employee with Greece’s electricity utility PPC, sipping his coffee in downtown Athens on the Games’ final day. The Olympics dominated Athenians’ daily lives for months. Tens of thousands had to stay at home in the traditional holiday month of August to organize them, from hospital workers to policemen. Car traffic was severely restricted to ease transport routes for athletes, officials, journalists and tourists. «I had a lot of trouble, especially moving around in the city because of the construction ahead of the Games. But in the end, it was worth it for everybody,» said Nikos Floros, a private employee. «A lot of construction was done, the city was transformed for the better,» he said. «The Games were successful, the country got the promotion it wanted. We were worried the Games could backfire on Greece’s image if they had been a failure,» said a doctor who did not want to be named. «Did the Games make sense financially? I don’t know – it’s the economists that need to tell us,» he added. Greece spent at least 7 billion euros on the Games – 1.2 billion euros alone on security. Many Greeks felt the Games were never a potential target of an extremist attack and believed the related expenditure was only meant to allay the security fears of the countries involved in the Iraq war. «Among the negatives of the Games was their cost… much of which was spent on security measures imposed upon us from abroad,» said Christos Pasalaris, a columnist with the conservative Eleftheros Typos. But Richardos Someritis, a columnist with the Greek daily To Vima, disagreed: «Security fears were not a paranoia, we live in difficult times,» he told AFP. Greek Sunday newspapers agreed the Games were successful, on balance. Organization, transport, and security were the Olympics’ strong suit, they reported. Empty seats in many competitions were regarded as the Games’ biggest drawback. But the Greek party was indelibly spoiled by the doping scandals surrounding the host team. Greece’s national heroes, Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, were forced to withdraw from the Olympics for failing to show up at a doping test.