On being late

During last weekend’s heat wave doctors’ recommendations were clear: don’t go out in the heat and avoid doing heavy labor. But at Olympic venues, work continued. In the midday heat – and it was after all, formally a day of rest – workers kept going to complete plans dreamt up by technocrats and bureaucrats rivaling each other in the Olympic sport of long delays. Most of the workers are foreigners. As they go about their work, they can see the banners of intolerance (in the form of graffiti reading «Out with foreigners») that are calculated to embitter. They know that their only security is the Olympics. We will not get rid of them because we need them if we are to meet the deadlines. When the lights die down, the clean-up will begin. Just a month before the opening ceremony and other events aimed at reviving a dying spirit, the gracious hostess that is Athens is both ready and not ready. The battle to make an impression (not that it makes any difference) was won with the positioning of Calatrava’s roof over the Olympic Stadium, and lost again in yesterday’s blackout. The general picture is being described with adjectives such as «incomplete,» «wasteful» and «slapdash.» The area in front of the old Panathenaic Stadium, the Kallimarmaro, Athens’s ultimate display window, is being dug up and «restored» for the umpteenth time, who knows for what reason or at what cost. Who is in charge? The head of Athens 2004? The head of the Athens Municipality? The Deputy Culture Minister? There is no indication that these three, despite being from the same political party, are working together, or willing to curb their own individual egos. One thing is clear: We proposed the Olympic Truce for others to sign. It has nothing to do with us here in Greece.