‘Pedestrianize the whole center of the capital’

Vangelis has been skateboarding for 10 years. It’s a way of life for him. He changed his life so he could spend more time on it. He moved from Aspropyrgos to Kallithea to be closer to the center and his fellow aficionados, and he chose a job related to street culture. He imports «upper playground» clothes from a collective of graffiti writers and skaters in New York. «When we go out with our skateboards, we spend all day on the street. We start out at the Pedion tou Areos park (the statue of Athena in the park is one of the oldest haunts of the skateboarders of Athens). Then we go on to 3-4-5-6 (as the skaterboarders call Arsakeiou Square on Panepistimiou Street), to Syntagma, and we might end up in Faliron. You can do different things with your board at each spot.» For them, the skateboarding spots make the city. «Athens is a paradise for skateboarding. There are lots of spots and nobody chases you like in Barcelona, where they have been turning skaters out of some squares in recent years. I’m not interested in having special skateboard parks; I prefer the road, pavements, our hangouts. I’m afraid that if they make parks it will be to limit us to them.» I asked whether he has sensed any attempt to limit skateboards to fenced-in areas. «To be honest, no. In fact, the City of Athens put out a poster with a skateboarder on it as part of a campaign for the city. I was surprised they chose a skater as an emblem for the city. But I remember a few years back people would comment on the street because I was wearing baggy Bermudas that were two sizes larger than normal. In general they saw us as marginal types, outsiders.» Vangelis works on downtown Ermou Street. Every morning he sets out on his skateboard, walking a little, skating a little. «I usually go home on the board because it’s downhill. It’s the best part of the day, but you need to be careful. Cars don’t pay you any attention.» What would a skateboarder like from his city? «Something that is unlikely to happen, but if one of the candidates announced it I’d vote for him no matter what: to pedestrianize the whole center and lay it with marble so we can roll better. But, seriously, I’d like the center to be pedestrianized. That would entail a drastic improvement in public transport and the creation of car parks around the center. «Oh, there’s something else, making the ticket for the Acropolis cheaper. It’s the best place to wind up with your friends at dusk after an entire day of skateboarding.» (1) This article first appeared in Kathimerini’s color supplement K on September 10, 2006.