In the final stretch
Despite the foot-dragging, mistakes and the delays, Greece has finally managed to win the race against time. The Olympics-related projects have been delivered and preparations have been completed. Two days before the opening ceremony, everything foreshadows a successful Games. A basic condition for winning the Olympic wager is that we are on the alert throughout the Games so as to deal with any hitches and complications that may arise. The fact that virtually all responsible officials have – at least in the past few years – displayed admirable discipline and consistency is a cause for optimism. The main responsibility for tackling all sorts of unexpected snags and ensuring a memorable Games does not only lie with the government and those who are directly involved in this colossal endeavor. The inhabitants of Athens, who so far have had to put up with the woes of traffic and construction works, are now expected to facilitate the Games by showing the requisite self-discipline. Even those who in the past have argued against the decision to bid for the Olympics now acknowledge that the country cannot but bring this national mission to a successful conclusion. It is not only the mammoth sums of money that have been spent on the venues and infrastructure. It is also that the Games will be an international test for the country. Nothing less than the country’s image is at stake. This is not possible to value in euros but it will no doubt have significant political and economic repercussions as Greece will get a chance to reap the long-term rewards of a successful Games. Regardless of the partisan statements coming from the government’s main political rival, the people are well aware that responsibility for the delays and budget overruns lies with the former Socialist administration. At the same time, it is credited with bringing all venues and infrastructure projects to a state of near-completion. The people also know that the conservative administration, which only climbed to power five months ago, also fought a battle to finish infrastructure projects on time. It is no coincidence that the public does not want to see the country embroiled in partisan confrontation at this point. It feels that even legitimate criticism can wait until after the Games are over. Then there will be enough time for an overview, giving credit where it’s due and laying the blame accordingly. Having won the battle against time does not make up for the fact that covering the lost ground means a swollen price tag.