Commission approval for Schinias rowing site

Athens Olympic Games organizers won the backing of the European environment commissioner yesterday for their work on a controversial rowing center in the ecologically significant Schinias area. The area, which witnessed fierce fighting between Greeks and Persians in the 490 BC battle of Marathon, has been the subject of a modern-day conflict between Olympic organizers and ecological groups. «This was a very, very controversial site but I can see with my own eyes that a lot of good work has been done here,» EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told reporters after inspecting the site. «Something that looked like an environmental problem is starting to look like an opportunity,» she said. Athens 2004, the Games organizers, have countered critics by saying that the Olympic works have helped to preserve the area, leading to the creation of a national park. «This is another example of how Olympic works can upgrade an area,» said Athens 2004’s chief, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. Environmental group Greenpeace gave a cautious welcome to developments at Schinias. «We need to see how the area is managed after the Games,» said Greece’s Greenpeace director, Nikos Haralambidis. (Reuters)