Athens center stage

For the first time ever, Athens has a starring role in the international media as host of the Olympics. More than the Games themselves, what will truly be interesting to see is whether Greeks are able to work quietly and efficiently for the common good. This is the greatest test, and it remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, Athens (and by extension the whole country) will benefit from the opportunity to really change Greeks’ image in Europe. Greece will really be strong when it is serious about the many small things that comprise the whole. The cooperation of the people is crucial. Recently, there was a report in the press that only 300 applications had been submitted for participation in the municipal program to improve the facades of city buildings. Although, as the mayor said, the program’s publicity campaign has not begun, the small number of willing citizens is indicative of the degree of social conscience among Greeks, who might pay out thousands of euros for new furniture but will resist paying 600-800 euros to improve the exterior of the buildings they live in. This also represents how far Greek society must still go with regard to attitudes toward public spaces. Much work still needs to be done, as the quality of public spaces is an indicator of the degree of urban development and respect for citizens. Athens is being put to the test; but it might need to resit the exams next term.