Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Gen [Print without images]

Sunday, August 29, 2004
'There isn't any plan'

Reuters

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 sport.

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 public housing.

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 after."

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 the facilities.

"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 cost."