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Athens mired in venues
Updated: 2006-08-14 09:26

ATHENS, Aug 14 - Barbed wire, padlocked doors and scattered garbage are what Athenians see these days at their multi-billion euro sports venues built two years ago for the 2004 Olympics.

Nikaia Olympic Weightlifting Hall in Athens. [Sohu]

In what critics say is a checklist of how not to do things for future Olympic cities, especially London in 2012, Athens is still struggling to find use for the state-of-the-art venues it paid more than 3.5 billion euros ($4.50 billion) to build.

Promising to showcase modern Greece, the Games went off without a hitch despite years of construction delays, but left a legacy of over-spending and venues in a state of abandon.

The wild water canoe and kayak facility was hailed as the world's best, as were the rowing centre and the weightlifting arena.

But two years after the Games that cost a record 12 billion euros, most venues remain fully or partly shut as the government desperately seeks private investors, the only viable option to recoup some of the funds pumped in to build and maintain them.

"We cannot keep them as Soviet-style sports venues alone. What would Greece do with the world's best canoe and kayak facility?" said Christos Hadjiemmanouil, the head of the company managing most Olympic venues.

Critics says that after wasting three years in preparations, organisers rushed to complete the projects ahead of the Olympics and spent no time planning their post-Games use.


As a result most venues will now go into private hands to start a cash-flow back to the state, angering sports federations who will never use them again and ordinary Greeks who say their tax money has been wasted.

"Why can't federations use the facilities?" a Greek Athletics Federation official told Reuters. "It is absurd to have high-quality venues and turn them into cafes and conference centres."

The kayak race course will be turned into a commercial water fun park and the rowing centre will have limited use due to environmental restrictions.

The shooting centre, several soccer stadiums and the vast multi-sports Hellenikon site including the softball and baseball diamonds face much bigger problems of survival and some of them could even be demolished in a few years.