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Former Olympic Sites Open to Commercial Development

The heads of four local authorities surrounding the huge former Olympic sites near the old Athens international airport, which had been earmarked four years ago to become “Europe’s largest” metropolitan park, last month joined forces to express fear that the much of the Hellenikon area would be left to commercial enterprises to exploit.

A joint announcement by Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia made clear that a draft law governing the post-Olympic use of former Olympic Games sites, currently being drawn up, would stipulate that a maximum of 10 percent of the buildings within each complex could be used for shops, restaurants and other businesses.

The ministers were adamant that they would not allow the construction of casinos or nightclubs at the coastal Aghios Kosmas sailing center and the Faliron Olympic Complex. Mr. Souflias added that he might allow tourist bungalows to be built at Aghios Kosmas, but not a hotel. A golf course could be built in Markopoulo, where the Olympic shooting and horse riding events took place, the ministers said.

The government also decided that the softball, baseball and field hockey stadiums at 550-hectare Hellenikon area, the site of the former airport, would remain unchanged. A hotel complex could also be erected on the site, said the minister.

Since the end of the Athens Games last August, the issue of what to do with the sites – which cost some 1 billion euros to build and 85 million euros a year to maintain – has become increasingly thorny, with the government facing opposition over the plans it has proposed.

Government insists that commercial enterprises are needed to cover at least part of the costs to maintain each area. Already, the head of the state body managing a new national park at Schinias, near Marathon, where the Olympic rowing venue was built, said that the government had failed to maintain the site and it was gradually falling into a state of disrepair.

The ministers insist that Schinias would not be included in the draft law allowing a tenth of it to be commercialized because it is a conservation area.

Last month a group of campaigners pressured the government to create a metropolitan park in Goudi, an area that hosted the badminton and pentathlon competitions and a media center during the Olympics.

The government’s delay in finding post-Olympic uses for the different sports venues built to host last summer’s Games in Athens is putting a heavy economic burden on the national economy.

A thorough plan for Olympic-related venues appears absent and thus far no news of intentions to draw up such a plan have been leaked (in other Olympics host countries, sports venues were designed and constructed taking into consideration their post-Olympic functions).

As time passes and the various sites remain unexploited, the number of officials and bodies (local administration functionaries, sports officials, etc.) who want to have a say or a share in the use of the venues is growing. Needless to say that the more sides involved, the longer it will take to reach a decision on each of these venues.

Tourism professionals here hope that the state will use these sites to boost the country’s tourism infrastructure. So far, only the Taekwondo (FCO Sports Pavillion) at the Falero Coastal Zone Complex has been tagged for tourism infrastructure as it was announced the tourism minister that it would be turned into the capital’s biggest conference and exhibition center before the beginning of this summer.

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