Just days after the Olympic flame was extinguished in Athens, organizers started the clean-up operation. Meanwhile, the future of pricey single purpose-built stadiums and venues remains in question.
What will become of the Olympic Stadium in Athens?
The organizers of the 28th Olympic Games in Athens raced against the clock to finish the stadiums and other facilities on time. Now, just days after the Olympic torch was extinguished, the process of taking many apart has begun, while the future of larger more permanent venues remains in question. For Greek authorities who spent record amounts on the games, the latter issue must be handled delicately.
Fated to become a sport ruin?
Closing ceremonies on Aug. 29, 2004
Many Greeks fear the stadiums and arenas -- the object of much praise for their forward-thinking design -- will become a kind of sport ruin. That could well happen, given that the cost of maintaining them could be prohibitively high. According to a study by the University of Thessaloniki, maintenance costs could exceed €84 million a year.
"Even if we use these buildings regularly, we will only recoup a portion of that," Christos Chatziemmanouil, president of Hellenic Olympic Properties, a state-owned holding company established to look into ways to make the venues profitable, told Deutsche Welle.
A new lease on life
The process of finding new uses for the fifteen facilities scheduled to remain beyond the Olympics is already well under way -- with mixed results.
The Olympic Village in Athens housed some 16,000 athletes in 2,292 apartments. It was the most expensive building project.
Athen's UEFA-league soccer team, the AEK, has expressed interest in the main Olympic Stadium. But there's a catch: with 74,000 seats, the venue may be just a bit too large. Meanwhile, the Olympic Village used to house the athletes will be turned into affordable housing for low-income families, and two Greek broadcasters are vying for the studio used by international broadcasters during the games.
The Olympic Baseball Center offers seats for 12,000 viewers.
The case of the stadiums in Patras, Volos and Heraklion is a bit less rosy. Neither Patras nor Volos has a first league soccer team, while Heraklion's team already has a stadium. And while the buildings near the airport used for the baseball, softball, field hockey and fencing events are supposed to be converted into Europe's largest amusement park, the plans are still on the drawing board.
Costs exceed expectations
Originally, the cost of the Athens Games were estimated at €4.6 billion, but those figures soon spiraled to more than double that (possibly as much as €10 to €12 billion), according to early estimates. Much of the additional cost has been attributed to the extra security measures necessary in the wake of Sept. 11th. For that alone, Greek Olympic authorities spent €1 billion, more than the total cost of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
With the cost of the games comprising around 5.7 percent of Greece's gross national product, it is no wonder Greeks are eager to see a return on their investment -- and unhappy to see the buildings go to waste.
In some areas, at least, the benefit of hosting the games has made itself noticed: Greece's growth rate, at around four percent, will be among the highest in Europe this year.