Ten years on, Athens 2004 gives Greece little to cheer

Thu Aug 7, 2014 6:57am EDT
 
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By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - It was billed as a chance to transform Greece's image abroad and boost growth but 10 years after the country hosted the world's greatest sporting extravaganza there is little to celebrate at the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.

Many of the once-gleaming Olympic venues which crackled with activity have been abandoned while others are used occasionally for non-sporting events such as conferences and weddings.

At the former Olympic rowing center in the town of Marathon, which gave its name to the endurance race, stray dogs play among overgrown weeds as a dozen youths train in the water.

Across the city, the former canoe and kayak venue has dried up, and entire banks of spectators' seats have been ripped out.

Just days before the anniversary of the Aug. 13-29 Games in 2004, and as Brazil gears up for the 2016 Rio Olympics, many question how Greece, among the smallest countries to ever host the Games, has benefited from the multi-billion dollar event.

For Greeks who swelled with pride at the time, the Games are now a source of anger as the country struggles through a six-year depression, record unemployment, homelessness and poverty.

Greece has struggled to generate revenue from the venues.

"Celebrate for what?," said Eleni Goliou, who runs a grocery store in the capital. "They spent money they didn't have - our money, taxpayers' money - on a big party. You see any money left for a celebration?" she asked with a shrug.   Continued...

 
A man jogs near the "Agora" structure at the Athens Olympic complex, at the site of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. July 27, 2014. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis