A new generation

The Olympic Games had some nasty surprises for us over the past few days – notably the doping fiasco involving top Greek athletes Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou – and no doubt there will be a couple more upsets before the Games are over. It is the nature and scale of the event, as well as the pressured circumstances of its preparation and organization that almost guarantee that there will be problems. But notwithstanding this unfavorable side, there are aspects of the Games we should appreciate in a different spirit and turn to our advantage. Now we are actually living the Games, we realize how much of a challenge they actually are and how much they stretch our financial and human resources. Massive funds were invested in the Olympics – funds we didn’t really have and were obliged to borrow in order to finance the needs (and excesses) of the Games at a time when our public finances are not in the best state and we have other economic priorities. The organization of the Games also demanded the commitment of human resources that could have been applied to projects that would have been far more profitable for our country. But there is also a very interesting aspect of the whole affair which has not been adequately highlighted. Over the lengthy period leading up the Games and now that they are under way, a large number of mostly young specialists, technicians and other professionals have worked together to keep to an extremely demanding program that called upon them to manage difficult situations, take initiatives and follow a completely different routine to the one that characterizes Greek employment and production. Thousands gained precious work experience; they came into contact with new technologies and got involved with projects that were unusual for the local economy’s size. The Games were an opportunity for many officials, minor and otherwise, to make their mark in a wide range of sectors – from organization and administration to cooking and communications. Furthermore, a considerable number of workers and professionals received specialization in various sectors. Thousands of volunteers and others involved in Olympics-related activities got used to working at a different pace, to being consistent and responsible. When the curtain falls on the Olympics, a vast number of those engaged in preparing and organizing the Games will have gained great experience and expertise. Unfortunately, after the Games these people will have to take up their previous jobs or look for new ones. Private firms will perhaps seek to employ those who gained expertise during the Olympics. Similarly, the Greek State should inject fresh blood into the ailing public sector by recruiting workers from the same pool. Many public services in the capital and, more importantly, in the provinces lack the expertise to deal with such new activities as European Community programs or information technology applications. The public sector should scan the 2004 Games staff list to upgrade its services.

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