Desolate scene around seaside stadium

The hopes raised in Neo Faliron and Moschato by the prospect of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens have since faded. The green strip linking the Peace and Friendship Stadium (SEF) with the riverbeds of the Kifissos and Ilissos was abandoned and eventually dried out. The empty space is full of litter and Gypsy families recently set up camp in the area. A seaside expanse that could have been an adornment and a source of fresh air for the neighborhood lies in a state of total neglect. Few people use the seafront of Neo Faliron and Moschato for recreation or sport. The reason is plain to see: The area, totaling around 35 hectares, is totally inhospitable, as it has been neglected for the past two years. From the forecourt of the stadium to the area in front of the Neo Faliron marina, the car parks under the Kifissou-Poseidonos interchange and the area between the Kifissos and Ilissos riverbeds, the picture of neglect is the same: a vast expanse of dried-out trees and trash. Recently, several Gypsy families came and set up camp in the area, with their tents and vans. Workers at the local marina (which belongs to the Hellenic Tourism Properties company) and staff at SEF (which comes under the General Secretariat for Sport) couldn’t believe their eyes. According to marina manager Giorgos Kyriakopoulos, the Gypsies tuned up about a month ago. «They set up a small camp with their tents and lorries,» he said, complaining that the families were using public water to bathe, and public space to hang out their washing. «We called the police, who came and evicted them but they came back again a few days later.» The management of the stadium, which owns the area up to the point where the Kifissos meets the sea, also took action, said SEF’s managing director Ioannis Vassileiadis. They told the police that the Gypsies had cut pipes used to water plants and shifted barbed wire and other obstacles intended to keep cars from entering. The families have since left.