Left to decay

The government’s delay in finding post-Olympic uses for the different sports venues built to host last summer’s Games in Athens is putting a heavy economic burden on the national economy. Not only is a thorough plan for Olympic-related venues conspicuously absent from the drawers of government officials – it is worth noting here that in other Olympics host countries, sports venues were designed and constructed taking into consideration their post-Olympic functions – but to make matters even worse, the conservative administration seems to have no intention of drawing up such a plan anytime soon. As if it were not enough that Greece paid a mammoth 10-billion-euro bill to stage the 2004 Games – which bore the highest price tag in Olympic history – the bill is still growing. Maintenance costs for these venues hover at some 85 million euros annually, but no one seems worried about that. Rather, government ministers are publicly squabbling about whether a hotel should be built by the Aghios Cosmas Olympic sailing center, while the mayor of Kallithea – allegedly heartened by the verbal commitments of the former Socialist administration – wants exclusive rights to the old racetrack in the Faliron district. As time passes and the various sites remain unexploited, the number of officials and bodies (local administration functionaries, sports officials, etc.) who want to have a say or a share in the use of the venues is growing. Needless to say that the more sides involved, the longer it will take to reach a decision on each of these venues. On top of the confusion it causes, the government’s foot-dragging is bound to inflate the political cost of any of the final decisions, as the noise coming from the different contenders will grow louder and louder as municipal elections draw near. In the meantime, the Olympic projects are left to decay due to inadequate maintenance works – a fact that will also have an effect on their value. The state, instead of using these precious projects with an eye toward boosting the country’s tourism infrastructure and taking into account the plethora of private investment proposals for exploiting the venues to hammer out a comprehensive plan for national economic growth, is doing little more than counting lost profits. The government must realize that with such an unproductive approach it is leaving growth on the back burner.

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