NEWS

After 2004 lights flame

As the government ponders how it will make use of the billion-euro stadiums the Olympic Games left behind, a group of people have gotten together to reignite the flame of human energy that helped make the Games a success. About 20 former employees of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee have joined forces to form a non-profit organization aimed at uniting the tens of thousands of staff and volunteer members who worked at the Games in August last year. Titled «After 2004,» the group is more than just an excuse to get together and exchange snapshots, its founders say. Its main objectives include helping the notion of volunteerism have a future in Greece and to also assist those involved in the Games to make use of their experience with future employers. «We aim to bring together the people involved and use some of the know-how that we all acquired for the future,» said Vassilis Alexandris, an After 2004 founding member. The group, the first of its type in the world, works toward helping the staff – and volunteers – network and connect with business operations in Greece and abroad that are looking for what they offer. Contacts are being made with large companies, recruiters and organizers of sporting events in a bid to pass on and use the training acquired by the staff. Talks have already started with Beijing, explained Dimitris Zenetos, another founding member. The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee absorbed a large number of employees from a small labor market. It was hiring staff for years in order to be fully prepared for the 17-day competition. Economists had warned of a hard landing for the local job market in the post-Games period. According to IOBE, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, the end of the Games meant that some 80,000 employees headed for the unemployment queue. In addition to this number, the sporting competition also required some 60,000 volunteers – a costly pool of human resources that were trained during the Olympics but which the government does not appear to be interested in utilizing. Following the Games, staff and volunteers were invited to a few parties but were then left to their own devices – an approach which differed from other Olympic cities. Following the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the Council of Social Services of New South Wales (NCOSS) stressed the need to help staff and volunteers find employment and vocational training opportunities after their contribution. «As a community, we should not miss the opportunity to assist these people into sustainable jobs in the robust economy, post-Games,» NCOSS explained. One of the big challenges organizers at the 2004 Olympics faced 16 months ago was getting together the volunteers needed in a country where programs involving free labor are looked upon by many as scams. Despite critics saying that thousands of Greeks would not give up their summer holidays, they did and they did their job well. There are some encouraging signs that this relatively new idea will continue to exist. The City of Athens has built on its Olympic volunteer movement by launching a similar scheme of its own this year, something that Games organizers and government ministries have neglected to do. «We want to keep this energy alive,» said After 2004’s Catherina Mytilineou. With registered members numbering more than 700 people – including many currently employed at different international sporting events in the cities of Doha, Turin, Beijing and London – the group is growing fast, but not without its fair share of problems. Being an independent initiative means that resources are tight, while the painful situation of being unemployed for some staff members has resulted in them shying away from social gatherings. After holding a series of social events over the year, After 2004 is now planning to run a conference on career development for people who worked at the Games and their potential participation in other sporting competitions, either in Greece or abroad. People interested in finding out more information can visit their website www.after2004.com.