After the Games have ended

After the Olympic Games, what then? One possibility is that we will for a few years rest on our laurels, having staged a great event – even more so considering the country’s size and capacity. And, in fact, everything seems to point to the probability that the Games will be a major success. Alternatively, the Athens Olympics could mark out a new path for the country – for Athens in particular – both at home and globally. In that case, the effort to organize the country’s institutions and services must take place on various levels. If the country is to move forward, one of the fundamental challenges that must be met is setting up a well-organized public administration, with good knowledge of its subject matter and experience in management. Such effort will have to overcome a number of longstanding obstacles. When state services are staffed by party cadres or ministers’ cronies, as happened during the rule of the now-departed Socialist administration, then the country will never acquire a functional and effective state apparatus. To ensure consistency and continuity, every new government has an obligation, which derives from its pre-election pledges, to set up the requisite institutional framework so that the administration is not reduced to a mishmash of party officials who come and go along with their ministers. People often ask about the impact on the economy of the big Olympics-related projects, expressing concern about the fate of dozens of businesses and the thousands of workers that these employ. It is not just the economic and social concerns. It is also the need to complete many big or small infrastructure projects in the rest of Greece which was blatantly neglected because of the mammoth Olympic effort. Athens itself has its own neglected areas, beyond the Olympic zone. We are not only referring to transport infrastructure (roads, railway networks, airports, sea harbors) but also to other sectors such as tourism, which is in urgent need of reorganization and investment. There is always the problem of finding the much-needed funding. The example of the private Greek-French consortium which struck the build-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement with the State perhaps set the example we should follow. There seems to be enough capital – in Greece and in Europe – for profitable investments. The State has to offer uncomplicated and flexible contracts. Both the investors and the country stand to gain from this. The case of the Rio-Antirio bridge demonstrates that international cooperation is needed not only in collecting funds but also in adopting new technology and organizational patterns – areas in which Greece is clearly lagging.