SBD/Issue 181/Olympics

Did Athens Games Contribute To Current Debt Crisis In Greece?

More Than A Dozen '04 Games Venues
In Athens Are Now Vacant, Fenced Off

While "many factors are behind the crippling debt crisis" in Greece, the '04 Summer Olympics in Athens have "drawn particular attention," according to Derek Gatopoulos of the AP. If not the "sole reason for this nation's financial mess, some point to the games as at least an illustration of what's gone wrong in Greece," and their argument "starts with more than a dozen Olympic venues -- now vacant, fenced off and patrolled by private security guards." The Athens Games cost nearly $11B by current exchange rates, "double the initial budget," and that figure "does not include major infrastructure projects rushed to completion at inflated costs." Six years later, "more than half of Athens' Olympic sites are barely used or empty." IOC President Jacques Rogge said linking the debt crisis to the games is "unfair." He argued that Athens is "still reaping the benefits from its pre-games overhaul of the city's transport systems and infrastructure." Rogge: "These are things that really leave a very good legacy for the city. ... There have been expenses, of course. You don't build an airport for free. Had Athens still been outmoded, the economy would have been much worse probably than it is today." LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said the "underlying issues in the Greek economy were far greater than a snapshot of the Olympic Games." Greek Olympic officials also insisted that the "scale of the country's dire financial problems -- and its staggering national debt of $382 billion -- is simply too big to be blamed on the 2004 Games budget." Greece Prime Minister George Papandreou "blames the debt crisis on decades of poor management," and former Deputy Minister for Olympic Projects Nassos Alevras "insists that, overall, the games carried a net gain including a tourism boost." Alevras: "The money spent on the Olympics is equivalent to one quarter of last year's budget deficit. So how can the amount spent over seven years of preparation for the Olympic Games end up being considered responsible for the crisis? That's irrational" (AP, 6/3).

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