(en) Olympic 'Victory' Brings Little Joy

Arm The Spirit (ats@locust.etext.org)
Thu, 18 Sep 1997 22:05:31 -0400 (EDT)

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Olympic 'Victory' Brings Little Joy

By Michael Karadjis Green Left Weekly, Issue #290, September 17, 1997

ATHENS, September 6 -- While 10,000 Athenians waved flags and honked horns outside parliament at the news that Athens would stage the 2004 Olympics, the mood could hardly be described as overwhelming. Compared to events such as party election rallies or even other major international sporting events, the spirit was far more low key than might be expected for the hosting of the Olympic Games in the country that founded them, and a country in which nationalism is very powerful. But it is not only that people are aware that the cost of up to 900 billion drachma ($4.5 billion) will be paid by wage earners, while big business will make its biggest killing in decades at these super-commercialized "games". It is the understanding that this killing will be made in a way utterly destructive to their environment. Modern capitalist "planning" has created the nightmare of half the entire Greek population of 10 million living in the capital. In just a few decades, almost every inch of Athens has been covered in concrete, rising also high into the sky. In summer, the pollution "cloud" which sits over the city literally kills. Now millions of tons of extra concrete will be poured to build the sporting venues, the buildings to accommodate athletes and their entourages, and huge new expressways to further encourage the intolerable level of private transport. In particular, the Olympic "village" for 20,000 people will be built in Parnitha, a forested area on the outskirts of Athens which still allows the city to breathe, somewhat. Ninety hectares of forest will be destroyed there. The erection of huge stadiums on the waterfront at Faliro will virtually cut the city off from the sea. As Athens is surrounded on three sides by mountains which hold in the pollution, the sea is currently the only escape. And the rowing events will be held at Skoinia, the only lake in the region which still has life in it -- until 2004. Certain necessary changes, such as the expansion of the rail system, are being dressed up as part of the Olympic development. But in fact these were going ahead independently, paid for by the EEC. In any case, the other side of this massive expansion of concrete in Athens is that for the next seven years, development of infrastructure in regional centres will be neglected even more than till now. Significantly, in the northern capital Thessalonica and in smaller regional centres, there were virtually no Olympic celebrations. Amazingly, the rabidly pro-Olympic Sky radio-television network carried out a poll which revealed only 49% support for the Olympics. Even the 80% support revealed by a newspaper poll immediately after the victory is low considering the promotion of the event by the entire mass media and most political parties. The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos), the New Left Current (NAR), and the Communist-Ecological Left Renewal (AKOA), as well as ecological groups, all issued declarations opposing the hosting of the Olympics. AKOA's statement read in part: "The hosting of the 2004 Olympics in Athens is a victory for nationalistic fever, in combination with big economic interests and backroom dealings ... Our aim must be to uncover the reality about the 'major works', the ecological destruction, the waste of public funds, the nationalist hysteria, the bad taste, and the disorientation of the public ..." The Citizens Committee Against the Hosting of the 2004 Olympics in Athens issued a declaration that "We will continue our struggle" against the environmentally destructive works and the enormous cost. But already, the state machine has shown how it intends to apply the "Olympic spirit". On September 3, four members of the committee were arrested for handing out leaflets against the Olympics and charged with "offence to archaeological sites"! The next day, two more were arrested for handing out leaflets in a suburban street, charged under a law from the junta days with "littering the environment", and sentenced to two months' imprisonment! Prime Minister Costas Simitis has set the tone for the next seven years: having achieved the "victory", now we all have to "work, work, work". A new, more respectable nationalism can replace the more xenophobic nationalism of the early 1990s to beat Greek and immigrant workers into line so that their bosses can rake it into the big time in 2004.

(Source: http://www.peg.apc.org/~greenleft)

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