NEWS

Great promenade showing signs of neglect

Outside Thiseion Station, stacked to one side, are pillars, used to obstruct parking, that have been cut down. The municipal and traffic police gaze around nonchalantly. A little further up, at the top of Irakleidon Street, the picture is the same. And motorbikes roar up and down the pedestrian way unchecked. At night, cars take sweet revenge: The hugely expensive walkway beneath the Acropolis is transformed into a wonderful outdoor car park. Despite fears by drivers of being ticketed, not so much as a leaf stirs. It’s the same story with the lower part of Syntagma Square. Athens’s dirtiest pavement puts those who believed in August that we were living in another city firmly in their place. Monastiraki is unshakably itself, strewn with asbestos, sun shades and pervaded by a generalized stench. What’s the connection between these various pieces of the puzzle of post-Olympic Athens? They used to be the «areas of responsibility» of the Unification of the Archaeological Sites of Athens company (EAXA), the body set up in 1997 by the ministries of Culture and the Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE). It was associated with perhaps the most important work in postwar Athens: the creation of the great promenade, or long walk, from Makriyianni to Pireos Street. But that all belongs to the good old days. Today, over the past five months to be precise, EAXA has clinically died. It has carried out no work at all – unless one can call minor repairs and projects supplementary to already existing ones works. And EAXA has no shortage of objectives. The frenetic revamp of the city in the run-up to the Games has left behind it no end of work still to be done: the lower part of Syntagma Square; the pedestrianization of Vassilissis Olgas Avenue which would complete the great promenade; the urgent revamp of run-down Monastiraki Square; the much-bruited Kerameikos Cultural Park, which would involve a number of changes from Pireos Street to Iera Odos. A dearth of funding means that EAXA is unable to plan works for 2005. None of the projects have been incorporated into the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII). Perforce, they then depend on funding from national sources. Despite all this, there have been no developments, not even a rumor. The competent ministries are expected to come up with something within the next few weeks, EAXA President Kyriakos Griveas told Kathimerini. «EAXA will either continue to exist in order to realize large, ambitious ventures in the city, or it will cease to exist,» said Griveas. He hastened to add that he was certain the government would choose continuation and not termination. The founding charter of the company provides for a 10-year life cycle, to 2008, that is. The EAXA president reiterated his belief that EAXA has not come to the end of its existence and told us to come back at the beginning of next month.