Wasted opportunity

From the moment Greece won the bid to organize the 2004 Olympic Games, Kathimerini has repeatedly noted that hosting an Olympiad in our times is neither a special honor nor does it confer any major moral importance. As a result, the burden to be shouldered by the hosts can only be justified by the promotion of the host city (and country) and with the opportunity to complete essential long-term projects and infrastructure development in the host city. For any country which fails to meet these two challenges, the Olympic Games are nothing but, at best, a clamorous fiesta or, at worst, an economic catastrophe. In the Athens’s case, the major challenge in terms of upgrading the urban landscape has centered – and still does – on the road network. It is an open secret that the State and local administration have never treated Athens as a city characterized by heavy traffic. As a result, there have been huge delays in completing essential state-supported projects, such as the plans for an underground railway, the construction of high-speed lanes and flyovers and the creation of additional parking space. The Olympic Games presented Greece with an opportunity to catch up in these sectors and prepare the ground for the promotion of a long-term series of projects after the event. However, this was in vain, as frivolousness and a lack of transparency have been the norm. Rather than distinguishing between road projects absolutely essential for the Games, projects which were necessary for the city and, finally, luxurious or grandiose projects, everyone began – regardless of whether they acted in good faith or driven by self-interest – proposing all sorts of projects. And, as a result, the 1999 Strategic Map included projects neither necessary for the Olympics, nor did they leave enough time and capital for their construction. It was only during the slow changeover from glossy paper plans to their funding and the actual construction that the over amplification was realized. In the meantime, so much precious time was wasted before the final selection of the actual projects to be completed, and this time under intense pressure that, as a consequence, eight major projects have been canceled in comparison to the 13 projects which will be completed. Furthermore, there are well-grounded fears that even the projects finally to be constructed will be trimmed – thereby rendering them inadequate a few years from now. In other words, rather than studying the vital needs of the capital, and irrespective of the requirements of the Games, and adapting the Olympic-related projects to these needs, the authorities did just the opposite. Inevitably, everything is now being done in the most makeshift fashion in order to be ready in time for the 2004 Olympiad. The opportunity for long-term planning based on Athens’s genuine needs has long been wasted.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.