Sunday, August 29, 2004
'There isn't any plan'
ATHENS, Greece -- In the months before the Olympic
Games there were serious doubts about Athens' readiness to host
the world's biggest sporting festival.
In the end, the Greek way of doing things prevailed --
everything was ready at the last minute -- and the promised state
of the art venues were ready for the first day of competition.
The multi-billion dollar question now is what lies ahead
for the 35 competition venues and 72 training facilities?
It appears Athens Olympic chiefs forgot to draft post-Games
proposals for most of the venues, which were seven years in the
planning. The facilities were the main contributor to the
overall cost of at least $12.1 billion.
"Unfortunately, there isn't any plan," government spokesman
Theodoris Roussopoulos said last week.
Some pre-Games venues, such as the soccer stadiums, will
revert to normal duty and others, like one of the baseball
stadiums, will be dismantled due to the marginal interest in the
There has been discussion of handing other venues to
municipalities for public use and others to the private sector
including turning the canoe/kayak venue into a water park.
Only the fate of non-competition venues, such as the huge
media centers and accommodation for the tens of thousands of
athletes, officials and journalists, has been decided.
The buildings will become exhibition and conference centers,
a police academy training locale, government offices, and private and
In Sydney, four years after the Games, the Australian
harbour city boasts a magnificent array of sporting facilities.
While the centerpiece Olympic Stadium is widely used, lesser
venues such as the archery range are underused and are a burden
to the tax payer.
In Athens, the Olympic stadium complex which includes the
aquatic center, the tennis center, the indoor arena and the main
stadium, will remain the country's premier sports site where
champions will be allowed to train.
The stadium itself will be rented out by several Athens
soccer teams for European and domestic matches. But the complex
comes with a hefty maintenance bill -- officials estimate the
upkeep will be about 100 million euros a year.
The International Olympic Committee has said the Games will
leave no "white elephants" behind in Greece, the smallest nation
to hold the summer Olympics since Finland in 1952.
Roussopoulos has said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who
came to power in March, has asked his ministers during the Games
to come up with ideas on what to do with the facilities.
The government has put together a commission of 33 members
who should announce a schedule for the post-Olympic use of the
venues just after the Games.
"They will find a use between the public use of the venues
and cooperation with the private sector as well," he said.
The head of the state company managing 14 Olympic facilities
-- including the main press center, riding, shooting and rowing
venues -- said some of these were handed over to Games
organizers without being contractually finished.
"They cannot be considered completed yet," said Christos
Hadjiemanuel, the head of Olympic Properties SA. "The priority
was on Olympic use and there was not enough planning for the day
Another problem for the state, which faced ballooning
construction costs as contractors had to work around the clock
to finish the projects, is maintenance and security costs piling
up while future use is being decided.
Local mayors have already said they cannot afford to pay for
"Municipalities are not financially prepared to take up such
a huge task," said Athens deputy mayor Theodoros Skylakakis. "I
believe that without the private sector we cannot meet the