Public use is promised for Games venues

Olympic installations will remain in the hands of the state and will leave a lasting legacy by making Attica a year-round tourist attraction and upgrading the quality of life of local residents, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday. «In taking advantage of the Olympic legacy, our main goal is to strengthen Greece’s image abroad even further. To turn Attica into a year-round, attractive tourist destination. To attract foreign direct investment and know-how. And, above all, to significantly improve the quality of life of Athens area residents by offering better choices in sports, leisure and culture,» Karamanlis, who is also the culture minister, told a press conference. The government’s concern is that the installations, for which, according to Olympic Properties director Christos Hadjiemmanouil, «each Greek paid 200 euros,» should not turn out to be white elephants. It will thus seek to attract the interest of private investors while keeping most facilities open to the public. At present, however, just five installations are ready to be opened to public, international tenders. Officials would not say which, apart from the former sailing center at Aghios Cosmas. One venue which has failed to attract the attention of either developers or people in the arts is the Weightlifting Hall at Nikaia, which is not easy to access. Some of the installations will be used by the government. The former Main Press Center, for example, will house part of the Environment and Public Works Ministry, while the wrestling arena at Ano Liossia will house dance, cinema, theater and music academies, as well as the future National Digital Museum. The tae kwon do arena in Faliron will be converted into a big conference center, but most facilities will be used for sports and will be open to the public. For other installations, pending the expression of private interest, intentions are still vague. For example, part of the Markopoulo equestrian center will be turned into a theme park of some kind and a hotel may be built there. Government officials stressed that there has been no undue delay in planning for the post-Olympic use of installations, adding that they will proceed in a transparent, law-abiding manner. The opposition Socialists said that the plans had «positive features» but expressed concern over delays and land-use issues, while the Left Coalition accused the government of being too willing to abandon the use of the venues to private interests.