Three in one, and on time, as well: Schinias’s Olympic Rowing Center

By August 2003, a year before the Athens Olympic Games, the 2004 Rowing, Canoe and Kayak Center, as well as the Environmental Education Center and the Schinias wetland will be ready at Schinias. These projects have managed to get moving, despite the rough ride they’ve had from environmentalists and those concerned at the treatment of a historically significant area, the site of the Battle of Marathon in which Athens defeated the mighty Persian army. Things are now proceeding smoothly, although the Public Works Ministry’s special service and Athens 2004 officials claim they will only sleep easily once the Olympic Games are over. The entire project, to be built at a cost of 82 million euros, is scheduled for completion next year. Those in charge are optimistic that it might even be ready for a general rehearsal in the form of an international event at the rowing center. Yiannis Pyrgiotis, the Athens 2004 executive director, believes that the work at Schinias, along with that along the Faliron coastline, will be decisive for Attica’s image, both aesthetically and functionally. This is because the Olympic Center at Schinias is part of a general upgrading of the area, following a presidential decree which declared a total of 1,500 hectares of land and sea in the area a national park, of which the Olympic installations comprise only 123 hectares. It is a technically complex project, according to Tilda Kyriakou, head of the Public Works special service, who added that every conceivable engineering specialization is involved in the construction of the two lakes, one for racing and one for warming up, and an artificial island. The models so far are impressive, showing a total of 57 hectares of water and 21 hectares of buildings, 12.8 hectares of which will be temporary structures. Rowing Center During the Games, the Olympic Rowing Center will have a spectator capacity of about 25,000. Already under way, the project consists of competition and warm-up areas, permanent and temporary installations and auxiliary and access areas. The rowing lake is 2,222 meters long and 162 meters wide; alongside it is the receiving lake for competitors to warm up, 1,350 meters long and 150 meters wide. They are separated by a thin strip of land on which a bicycle track is being constructed, alongside a road for other means of transport, such as ambulances, and for media vehicles. The lakes will be linked by two channels at each end, crossed by bridges to the median strip of land for pedestrians and vehicles both during the Games and afterward. At the southern end, the strip of land widens to form a 7.5-hectare island for 7,800 square meters of permanent buildings and 12,800 square meters of temporary structures; these are for VIPs, athletes, judges, media and others, as well as for the public. The permanent buildings are for athletes, officials and medical staff, and include changing rooms, athletes’ accommodation, a medical center, a gymnasium and drug-testing areas. The island will also have the finishing tower, permanent grandstands for 1,000 spectators, temporary grandstands for another 3,000 and media areas. Opposite the island there will be temporary grandstands for 10,000, while another 10,000 will be able to watch the races from the lake embankments. At the far end of the course will be a bridge leading to security, reception and staff areas, and the bus terminus, since no private cars will be permitted to enter the National Park area. At a distance of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the racing area, there will be a visitors’ car park with space for 2,000 vehicles, 500 meters from Marathonos Avenue. Spectators and visitors to the park will be served by a public transport system linking the car park with the entrance to the Olympic Center. Both Marathonos Avenue and the coast road linking Marathon to the center are to be widened. The project also includes a fire detection and firefighting station for the forest of Schinias and the wetland.