Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Greece Unveils Post-Olympic Fate of Venues

By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece - Greece drafted legislation allowing commercial use — such as restaurants or theme parks — for many of the world-class facilities that have been gathering dust since the Athens Olympics ended seven months ago.

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Fani Pali Petralia, the deputy culture minister who led the government's Olympic preparations, failed to provide a clear timetable Wednesday for when she expected the legislation to be approved. She said none of the facilities would be sold to offset Olympic costs.

The facilities would be leased or opened for commercial use to help pay back some of the $14.2 billion Greek officials said were spent on the most expensive Olympics in history.

"The profits from commercial usage will create great social benefits and at the same time guard the public character of the facilities," Petralia said. "Nothing is for sale and nothing will be sold."

Petralia had also announced general plans for the facilities — numbering more than a dozen — in February, but had provided few details.

The draft legislation she presented Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium complex sets the legal framework allowing commercial enterprises to be set up at many facilities. It also allows many venues to be used as conference and exhibition centers.

"Our policy for the utilization of the Olympic properties will be to ensure that the money spent by the tax payer is not lost," she said.

The probable use of two venues has been announced: a marina on Athens' southern coast that can hold 1,200 boats, and land near the Olympic equestrian center just outside the city that most likely will be made into a golf course.

Petralia did not say how many of the facilities would be commercially self-sufficient and gave no details about companies interested in operating some of them.

None of the facilities is being used permanently yet, although the badminton venue — which was supposed to be temporary — has staged an award-winning musical.

Petralia blamed the previous socialist government for a lack of post-Olympic planning. The governing conservatives came to power five months before the August games.

The cost of the Olympics has contributed to Greece having the biggest budget deficit in the European Union.


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