Dismal finale

Instead of a spectacular climax – a dismal finale. This is, unfortunately, the trajectory of the much-hyped Cultural Olympiad. Instead of a grandiose culmination, as pompously announced in the past, the Cultural Olympiad is dogged by a burgeoning wave of cancellations. The runup to the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony has left much to be desired. The «Opera of the Earth» has been called off, while a multifaceted performance that was set to be staged in Ancient Olympia, under the auspices of the Municipality of Athens, met with the same fate. The wishful, if not megalomaniac, planning by former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and the unchecked management of a sizable budget condemned the project to an ignominious finish. The successful cultural events in 2002 were followed by a less memorable 2003 and near-complete stagnation in 2004. At the most crucial turning point, when Greece is becoming the center of global attention in view of its hosting the Summer Olympic Games, the Cultural Olympiad seems to have run out of funds. The mistakes and delays of the previous years are now becoming evident. That was to be expected considering that a number of costly shows were scheduled while, in some cases, the cost of a single performance hovered above 1.5 or even 2 billion drachmas (6 million euros). It should be noted that Venizelos’s original pledges that the Cultural Olympiad would be funded with 40 to 50 billion drachmas (150 euros) were never met. Given that funds were cut down to about 20 billion drachmas (60 million euros) for the net cost of the events, the fact that two shows absorbed nearly one-fifth of the overall budget was a sign of poor management. Worse, besides tainting Greece’s image abroad, the snowballing cancellations of events organized under the umbrella of the Cultural Olympiad, has seriously injured Greece’s ties with a plethora of first-class foreign artists. The wrath against Venizelos is justified, especially as the former cultural minister insists on spending most of his time parading on television talk shows speaking on every subject under the sun. These artists rightly feel that they were cheated, as they put time and effort into projects that will not take place – with this the exclusive fault of the Greek organizers. Some of the artists have already raised the issue of compensation. The stand of the Municipality of Athens on the issue of the festival that was to be held based on the Panathenaic Games is equally unacceptable. Instead of being advertised on a global scale, our country’s image has been seriously tarnished. This is nothing but the price of arrogance, immoderation and reckless management.

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