An Olympics for everyone?

Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulou-Daskalaki was for some reason upset by last Sunday’s editorial piece in Kathimerini titled «2004 Games, an event for the few.» [The same editorial appeared in the Monday, October 20 edition of Kathimerini English Edition.] This article, based on research carried out by pollsters MRB, maintained that the Greek people are relatively indifferent to the prospect of Athens 2004, something unseen in previous Olympic Games’ host countries. The piece also blamed organizers at every level for regarding the Olympics as a social event for the international jet set and for displaying cold indifference to the concerns and problems of the indigenous population. In her response, published in yesterday’s Kathimerini (and today’s English Edition), Angelopoulos-Daskalaki maintains that our fellow citizens show a lively interest in next year’s Games and that if the Olympics do not rate highly on their list of worries this is because they have absolute trust in her own unshakeable ability to bring us success after success. However, this display of complacency fails to address the essence of the critique leveled at her. The question is not whether Greek citizens are enthusiastic about a televisual extravaganza, with a splash of local color, which will inspire in them certain ephemeral emotions of a somewhat higher level than the average «survival» game show aired on private TV. The real problem, which is evident to anyone who retains an essential grip on reality, is that the organizers of the Games – both government and ATHOC officials – have failed to transform the Olympics into an incentive for the Greek people to spring into life, not just to «don their glad rags» for the duration of the event but to engender a fresh attempt to boost development so that the Games will at least leave some tangible benefits for Greece and its people once the show is over. This was supposed to be the chief aim of the Olympics, after all. Indeed, as MRB’s research reveals, most Greeks are most concerned about the «day after» the Olympics – when the lights have gone down, when Santiago Calatrava’s expensive structure stands empty, when laborers employed on Olympic projects are poring over job listings in the press, and when the taxpayers are faced with the bill for a bombastic fiesta of the few. Angelopoulou-Daskalaki’s Olympics could have as its slogan «I am the Olympic Games.» Indeed, the Athens 2004 of the masses is dominated by the bitter impression that the organizers are singing their own praises.