OPINION

The truth about Olympic projects

The inauguration and pending delivery of the Rio-Antirio bridge has touched off a game of public relations among Greece’s rival political parties. At a time when Greeks are overwhelmed with joy and pride at seeing an impressive and beautiful technical undertaking coming together – in what is the materialization of a century-old dream – some isolated voices are trying to politically appropriate the project, as it were, prompted by reasons of political expediency or in-party power play. Some politicians, mostly belonging to the opposition camp, tend to view public projects as their political property. They have gone as far as to criticize their Socialist leader George Papandreou for not promoting the Olympics-related projects as a legacy of the PASOK party which ruled the country until March. Obviously some people are uncertain over the nature of public projects or, worse, they are trying to throw the public into confusion. Public projects are the property of all taxpayers who have to shoulder the financial burden (including the kickbacks for all sorts of middlemen plus the massive budget overruns which are the offshoot of political and business entanglement); they put up with the woes caused by the lengthy construction works. The government officials of the time can congratulate themselves for their contribution into the due management of taxpayer money but they must also be held accountable – and even punished – for budget overruns, shoddy construction work and delays for which they are exclusively responsible. Such flaws, of course, dogged most of the Olympics-related projects partly because of the very tight time frames. Certain politicians must be held accountable for all these plights and the exploration of responsibilities should not be postponed indefinitely. On the other hand, most of these infrastructure projects will benefit the citizens and Greece as a whole. People realize this, and for this reason are satisfied with their completion, despite the heavy price tag they will have to pay for many years to come. Similarly, they are annoyed to see politicians shirking their responsibilities and ignoring people’s sacrifices.