OPINION

Post-Olympic use

Yesterday’s government meeting on the fate of Olympics venues after the end of the Games raised a very important issue. In what entailed a heavy burden on the shoulders of taxpayers and the sacrifice of other investments, Greece came up with a large number of impressive facilities for these Summer Games. But no decision has been made on their future. The Socialist governments of Costas Simitis focused on the construction of some very lavish sports complexes, compared to those which hosted past Olympiads, but failed to draw up an economic-viability study or map out a strategy for their post-Olympics use. Yesterday’s meeting, which took place only a few days after a speech by the chairman of Olympic Properties (the company which has undertaken the management of all Olympic facilities) on the issue, gave an overview of the issue but did not point to any clear conclusions. The government has said that it wants to put the venues to the service of the common good. Hence a form of cooperation between the local administration and the private sector must be sought, not with the intention of selling the sites but of finding management schemes that will cover maintenance costs. The aim is grounded in the moral view that the venues must be open to the public for training and recreational purposes. However, it may also be that the government is left with no alternative. In fact, it seems that a decision to directly privatize the sites would founder on the lack of interest by the private sector. In addition to the high cost of maintenance and doubtful revenue, the ownership status of some sites is complicated by still-outstanding court cases over the expropriation of land. In this light, even if the government wished to sell some of the sites, it is far from certain that it would manage to extract a good price for them. Given the uncertainty, the government’s top priority should be to make sure that the value of the stadiums will not depreciate through lack of use or interest. Privatizing the venues or charging a price for their use is preferable to their being given free-access status yet at the same time be left to rust. As for their being available to the benefit of the public, we may assume that the people of Athens would be keen to use the infrastructure for training or recreation even at a price, rather than see them being used exclusively by sports clubs or federations – a fact that would not work in the collective good and would unavoidably result in financial catastrophe.