OPINION

Dramatic turnaround

The mood in Athens has clearly changed for the better with regard to Greece’s Olympic wager. Ten days ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony, the critical comments that were once published in the foreign press – notwithstanding that they were often motivated by business or political expediency – are quickly giving way to praise and admiration for all that has been accomplished. The foreign media pay credit to Greece’s brand-new infrastructure projects – even though Greeks, true to form, only managed to deliver them at the eleventh hour. The foreign delegations, who are gradually flocking to the Olympic Village and paying a first visit to the sports venues, say they are impressed by the stadiums. Many of them openly admit that Athens’s Olympics-related projects and venues in many cases outclass Sydney’s – a city that organized a very successful Games. It is worth noting that the reaction of Athenians to the newly introduced traffic restrictions – which are set to last through the Games – was more than adequate. Drivers in the capital appear to have realized that their cooperation will be crucial in surmounting congestion in the streets of Attica. Their compliance with the emergency traffic arrangements reflects a rapid transformation in public behavior as annoyance over the traffic woes caused by public works is giving way to delight over Athens’s new image – that of a more livable capital exuding the dynamism of a 21st century city. The feeling of euphoria caused by this turnaround in Olympics preparations must not prompt relaxation among Greece’s responsible officials. Rather, the authorities must intensify their efforts. They must be everywhere at once, deal with any problems that emerge (for example, the snag at the point where the national road meets the Attiki Odos highway), and provide instant solutions where necessary. A wave of optimism has swept over Athens as people truly believe that we can live up to the challenge of hosting a memorable Games. It would a major faux pas to waste such an opportunity because of last-minute laxity or tardiness.