NEWS

Petralia on difficulties of site

A few years ago, when Schinias was slated as the site of an Olympic venue, environmental groups rose up in arms, citing the damage to the ecosystem that would result. Over these objections the Rowing Center was built and the opposition was sidelined. However, the installations, built at an exorbitant cost, are now perhaps the government’s biggest problem in the use of Olympic sites. «I believe that we are being unjustly criticized,» said Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia. «We should make it clear that our duty ends with the actual Rowing Center; we are not responsible for the whole of the Schinias site,» she said. «The recent images of the Rowing Center shown in the media were often false. Many of them used photographs of rubbish lying outside the perimeter. The rowing center itself is clean and is being guarded.» That is not to say, of course, that the Olympic Rowing Center is in excellent condition. «We have a big problem with the reeds growing in the lakes,» admitted Petralia. «We aren’t allowed to use chemical pesticides because of their effect on the ecosystem. So every two months we have them cut, at a cost of 300,000 euros each time. So we are planning to buy the equipment for the job ourselves. As for mosquitoes, they are a problem in the entire area of Schinias, not only the Rowing Center.» The minister also admitted that it would be difficult to find a way to use the Rowing Center now. «It presents more problems than all the other Olympic venues; it cannot be part of an international competition because it is part of a protected site. Only low-intervention solutions are possible, and these are not financially viable. The National Park Management has not submitted any written proposals to the ministries, nor has it taken delivery of the firefighting system for the forest of Schinias, not for the Rowing Center.» Petralia suggests a joint meeting of all the authorities involved. «The Rowing Center cannot be regarded separately from the national park, but solutions can be found. Just as in Iraklion, where we linked the post-Olympic use of the site to the restoration of the town’s coastline, a project that will make Iraklion the flagship of the Mediterranean.»