NEWS

Plan to restrict business activity at Olympic sites

While the government unveiled measures yesterday ensuring that only a small fraction of each former Olympic site can be used for commercial purposes, four Athens mayors led a public protest to express fears that the areas may still be lost to business interests. A joint announcement by Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia made clear that a draft law governing the post-Olympic use of the sites, currently being drawn up, will stipulate that a maximum of 10 percent of the buildings within each complex could be used for shops, restaurants and other businesses. The ministers were adamant that they would not allow the construction of casinos or nightclubs at the coastal Aghios Cosmas sailing center and the Faliron Olympic complex. Souflias added that he might allow tourist bungalows to be built at Aghios Cosmas, but not a hotel. A golf course will be built in Markopoulo, where the Olympic shooting and horse riding events took place, the ministers said. The government also decided that the softball, baseball and field hockey stadiums at Hellenikon, the site of the former airport, would remain unchanged. A hotel complex could also be erected on the site, Souflias said. Since the end of the Athens Games last August, the issue of what to do with the sites – which cost some 1 billion euros to build and 85 million euros a year to maintain – has become increasingly thorny, with the government facing opposition over the few plans it has proposed. Last week, the head of the state body managing a new national park at Schinias, near Marathon, where the Olympic rowing venue was built, said that the government had failed to maintain the site and it was gradually falling into a state of disrepair. The ministers said yesterday that Schinias would not be included in the draft law allowing a tenth of it to be commercialized because it is a conservation area. Last month a group of campaigners pressured the government to create a metropolitan park in Goudi, an area which hosted the badminton and pentathlon competitions and a media center during the Olympics. Yesterday, the mayors of Hellenikon, Glyfada, Argyroupolis and Alimos led local residents in a protest against Souflias’s refusal to discuss his plans for the 550-hectare Hellenikon site with them amid fears that he intends to turn over much of the area to developers. Local authorities want the site to become a metropolitan park. Protesters briefly closed off the busy coastal Poseidonos Avenue yesterday afternoon as an indication of their displeasure. Souflias responded by saying that he could not see how the whole area could be maintained as a park but insisted he would discuss the matter with local authorities. The mayor of Kallithea, meanwhile, also made his concerns known yesterday with regard to the future of the coastal sites, including the currently barren area formerly occupied by the racetrack near the Faliron complex, fearing they might be overrun by commercial interests. The Athens-Piraeus prefect also issued a statement backing the concerns put forward by the five mayors.