NEWS

Residential area could be a model settlement but some fear ghetto-like isolation from local community

According to the Code for Municipalities and Communes, once the Olympic Village is inhabited it comes under the full administrative jurisdiction of the local Acharnon Municipality, within whose geographical boundaries it was constructed. Dogmatic compliance with a one-track administrative solution that is incompatible with the construction of a new town in such a short time (a phenomenon new to Greece) could lead to serious problems. Its population alone is the same as or more than 10 regional capitals and it is double the size. It is also located in a remote area (outside any social network) and will house 10,000 inhabitants – the majority having no link with the local municipality – who are total strangers to each other and the surrounding community, and have vast demographic, professional and financial differences as well as other socio-cultural disparities. Sociologist Z. Theos has highlighted the risk of a total social collapse. After having spent many years in France and been involved with worker housing issues, he has every reason to be pessimistic. He spoke to Kathimerini about his fears for the village. Social collapse Why will the society collapse come about if the Olympic Village comes under the jurisdiction of the Acharnon Municipality? Nobody in the municipality can imagine what it means to create a social structure for an entire town of 10,000 inhabitants. Once the municipality services find themselves faced with the numerous problems likely to beset the residents – who do not know each other and have vast socio-cultural differences – they will have difficulty coping with either the volume or the incredible diversity of the problems that will arise. They will be overtaken by events. If they do not find themselves in a state of total panic they will be blamed daily for the inadequacies, mistakes, blunders and negligence that will result in mounting tensions and violent protests against the municipality representatives. From the outset you warmly supported the creation of the Olympic Village with the aim of providing housing for beneficiaries of the Workers’ Housing Organization (OEK) after the Olympics. As owners begin to take up residence, does the village meet your initial aspirations? Yes and no. The 2,292 families will be housed in wonderful homes in the Olympic Village. However, due mainly to a change in the OEK administration in 2000-01, there has been no advance planning for the post-Olympic period. This vacuum is only being addressed now (with the creation of 24 small stores). Due to repeated changes in the administration there are many extremely important outstanding matters to be settled as regards setting up basic social operations for an actual town of 10,000 inhabitants. Infrastructure Is there still time for these steps to be taken? Provided that the urgency is recognized, it is possible for a full infrastructure program to be created at a rapid rate so that by the end of next summer (when all the residents will have settled in their homes) the local society can function normally. How do you think the village should be administered? There should be special legislation to recognize the Olympic Village as a department of the Acharnon Municipality, but also its administration, for a certain transitional period, by OEK and the subsidiary Olympic Village 2004 SA, which created the village and is aware of its requirements, unlike the local municipality. In this respect a transitional departmental council should be set up with majority OEK representation and minority representation by the municipality. OEK should be empowered to loan the necessary funds from the transitional administration and receive directly the levies charged by the Public Power Corporation on behalf of third parties and corresponding state subsidies. Strangers together How will the lack of a common social history affect the 10,000 inhabitants? All «normal» towns have developed over decades and centuries, as a result of the specific needs of their populations. In contrast, today’s «new towns» that mushroom out of nowhere in barren inhospitable places are huge artificial complexes whose inhabitants are as yet absent or unknown. There is no social cohesion between the people who come to live there or between them and others living in the surrounding area. As a result, living in these areas is a kind of social marginalization resulting from the location itself. It is precisely to avoid having the Olympic Village become a ghetto that special social programs have been planned to involve all the inhabitants in order to ensure a quality of social life and in the environment, for the benefit of all.