Guatemala 2007: Building a Strong Olympic Legacy from Athens 2004

The IOC Session heard a report today on how the Greek Government is continuing to work on building a strong Olympic legacy from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The report was made by a delegation from Hellenic Olympic Properties (HOP), led by HOP’s Chairman and CEO Christos Hadjiemmanuil, which is responsible for managing and developing the legacy of the Athens Games.
A Catalyst for Change
The report outlined how pre-Games Athens was in need of major urban interventions, with the city facing a number of issues, such as a lack of transport infrastructure and a deficit in energy, telecom and other public utilities. This made Athens an unattractive place for tourists and investors and was at the root of other issues in the city, such as traffic congestion and pollution problems. However, the presentation went on to point out how the hosting of the Olympic Games was a catalyst for significant improvements in infrastructure and reputation over only a five-year period. Thanks to the work carried out ahead of the Games, and through the great success of the Games themselves, Athens has been transformed into a city with an environment conducive to growth, with a hugely improved road and public transport system, with better hotel accommodation and tourism infrastructure and with a new image for the outside world.
The Olympic Venues
Following the Games, Athens was left with a number of large facilities spread around the city. This stock of public venues, situated in a large, tightly built city, which was lacking ground for development, presented a great opportunity for housing new activities. The Games also left Athens with a new sea front in Faliron, Hellinikon and Agios Kosmas, which, in addition to the development opportunities from the venues, was also helping to improve Athens’ image. With the creation of HOP, the Greek Government wanted to ensure that the uses for the 22 Olympic venues under its responsibility would respond to a combination of city planning, economic and cultural objectives and not become a burden. Since then, HOP has completed six tenders for Olympic venues, which are helping to ensure that revenue is generated, that jobs are created and that these venues will serve a social purpose for many years to come.
Some of the venues already tendered are badminton, the International Broadcast Centre, Canoe/Kayak, Galatasi stadium, Agios Kosmas sailing centre and Beach Volleyball. The post-Games uses of these sites will range from museums, to shopping centres to amusement parks. A number of other venues have also had their post-Games uses identified, notably the Faliron Taekwondo Pavilion, which will become a convention centre; the Main Press Centre, which will house the Greek Ministry of Health; the Nikaia Weightlifting Centre, which will be the home to a new campus of the University of Pireaus; the Ano Liosia Wrestling Centre, which will host a set of new cultural organisations; and finally, discussions are underway to turn the Schinias Rowing Centre into an international training centre.
An Economic Legacy
The report also noted that following the Games, the population of the city of Athens increased but unemployment fell, in relation to Greece’s indexes, which shows increased employment opportunities coming out of the Games. The sectors of construction and tourism in particular have grown substantially; while new areas have emerged, such as logistics, information technology, sports and entertainment to also help generate growth post-Games. This shows that the Games legacy, which HOP is working to develop further, is contributing to the city’s overall economic development and urban regeneration.
As part of the Olympic Games project, the Organising Committees now participate in a study called Olympic Games Impact (OGI), which has for its objective to monitor the impact of the Games on a host city before, during and after the event. Athens 2004 ran a full version of this programme, even although it was put into place towards the end of its preparations, with the data gathered through the OGI project helping the government make strategic decisions post-Games in areas such as finance and tourism. It has also helped local governments within the city to assist with issues such as waste management, traffic management and the provision of sports facilities.

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