The price of an Olympic folly

It has become clear that going on to stage the Olympic Games was an ill-conceived and costly decision. The Socialist and conservative administrations should both be held accountable for the dire consequences of that folly. A government that fell short of tackling everyday problems let itself be carried away by pipe dreams. The decision to bid for the Games was first made by the conservative administration of Constantine Mitsotakis. As a party in opposition later on, New Democracy never challenged the much-hyped «national goal.» More than 9 billion euros went into an – admittedly successful – event that lasted no more than 30 days. When the curtain fell on the Games, the mess was revealed. The venues will cost some 85 million euros a year to maintain and the administration of Costas Karamanlis is eager to sell at least part of them to private interests to relieve itself of the extra burden. The entire Olympic saga was a painful reminder of the political elite’s tendency to overestimate the country’s potential before undertaking any commitments and of its failure to exploit the momentum created by significant events. Critics are keen to stress the lack of planning. True, the conservatives have mostly been reduced to knee-jerk reactions and taken little real initiative. Having said that, the government inherited an economy devastated by the poor administration of its Socialist predecessors, while commitments stemming from membership in the eurozone have forced it to try to cap the big budget deficit. Our political class, past and present, should have known better when they indulged in triumphalism for winning the right to organize the Games. The 30-day spectacle finished five months ago; but the consequences of the folly will haunt taxpayers for decades.

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