Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beijing trumps Athens … and then some

BEIJING – It is the biggest buzz word in Olympic circles, and the promise of it can dramatically sway the bidding process for future Games.


These days, any hopeful city with Olympic aspirations must not only show its ability to provide venues and infrastructure of the highest standard, but also prove there will be a lasting positive effect on the local community.

The 2004 Olympics in Athens showed how to get it embarrassingly and disgracefully wrong. Over the past 16 days, Beijing has shown the world how to get it magnificently right.

Four years since the Athens Games, a Greek tragedy is taking place. Incredibly, 21 out of the 22 Olympic venues now lie abandoned and in various states of ruin.

Gypsy camps have sprung up in the shadow of stadiums where the world’s finest athletes once battled for gold. Graffiti is scrawled over the outer walls of many sites, and it has been reported in Greece that upward of $1 billion has been spent simply to maintain these ugly wrecks.

That is Athens’ legacy.

Sixteen days of glory, but at what price? The Olympics are now almost a dirty word in Athens, most regularly used by politicians who use the issue of decay as a powerful campaigning point.

There was an element of tokenism in awarding the Olympics to Athens in the first place, a symbolic gesture intended as a nod to Ancient Olympia.

The Games will never return there. They will not be allowed to, if for no other reason than that the level of public outrage at the grotesque waste of money on oversized venues with no future is extreme.

Beijing is not going to let that happen. For a start, the Chinese capital has several huge advantages over Athens.

“The reason why some countries have been challenged with economic downturns after hosting an Olympics is that hosting cities are often very small,” said Chen Jian, executive president of the Beijing Economy Research Association. “Their investments in infrastructure construction were excessive. Fluctuations arose in the economic growth when no new hotspot for investment occurred after the Olympics.”

Beijing is a city that deeply loves its sports, even more so now given the host nation’s extraordinary success over the past fortnight.

The Bird’s Nest will be used for major international events, concerts and domestic soccer matches.

The Water Cube aquatic center was built to a sensible size, and will mainly be used for international diving competitions and exhibitions. Diving’s popularity in China should ensure that it is often filled to near capacity.

The luminescent light show on the glowing exterior of the stadium will be turned off soon after the Games, but will be put back on whenever there is a major event taking place in Beijing.

Other sites such as Workers’ Stadium and Workers’ Gymnasium were already in place. The Olympic Park Tennis Center has been tabbed to host an ATP event next year.

Whereas the list of Athens’ failures goes on, so too does the depth of Beijing’s successes.

The Games have sparked economic growth, and experts predict a continued surge in tourism as many fans who traveled to the Olympics are expected to return for a second look.

Here, there is a legacy of pride, and a spectacular standard of responsible spending for future hosts to uphold.

Whether you agree with China’s foreign policies or political ideals, no one can deny this has been a truly superb Olympic Games.

Congratulations, Beijing.

1 comment:

radiofonitzis said...

This article is so blatantly wrong and inaccurate on so many counts, it is simply astonishing. It is also interesting to note how Mr. Rogers, the author of this so-called article, somehow knows exactly how Beijing's Olympic facilities will be used in the future, when the Olympic Games ended a mere three days ago.

Here is an article that I wrote to Yahoo in response:

Your recent article, "Beijing Trumps Athens, and then some," is a shining example of misinformed, hack journalism at its ultimate worst. There is honestly not one part of your article that even remotely reflects the true reality of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, games which were amongst the most successful of our time, and which have brought numerous improvements to the City of Athens and to the image of Greece internationally.

The main assertion of your article is that 21 out of 22 sporting facilities used during the Athens Olympic Games now lie unused and abandoned, in "various states of ruin," as you so completely inaccurately described it. This is so absurdly far from the truth that I have to wonder how you could have possibly garnered this impression. Let's go through some of the facilities, shall we?

Athens Olympic Stadium: Is in continuous use to this day. It is the home field for two of Greece's major football clubs, AEK and Panathinaikos. It hosts annual track and field meets. Most significantly, it hosted the 2007 UEFA Champions League final, Europe's largest annual football event.

Athens Olympic Complex: The indoor basketball arena is in continuous use for both domestic and international matches. It is the home court of Panathinaikos and AEK's basketball clubs, and Greece's national basketball team plays its home games here. It was most recently used just before the Beijing Olympics for the Olympic Qualifying matches in basketball, through which Greece, Germany and Croatia qualified for the Beijing Olympic games. The aquatic center is also in continuous use, for water polo and swim meets, and the tennis center and velodrome are also in continuous use as well.

Peace and Friendship Stadium: in continuous use as the home court for one of Greece's largest basketball teams, Olympiakos. It is also used for volleyball matches, conventions and concerts.

Hellinikon Olympic Complex: The basketball stadium is still in use, hosting home games of Greek Women's National basketball team, as well as the Panionios basketball team. The baseball and softball stadium has been converted to a football pitch, used by Ethnikos FC, in Greece's second category.

Faliron Indoor Arena and Olympic Coastal Zone: The indoor arena is used as a concert and exhibition space, and the coastal zone has continued to be used as part of Athens' revitalized coastline. The Agios Kosmas Olympic Center is used for sailing meets and yachting, amongst other activities.

Markopoulo Equestrian Complex: Remains in use today for horse racing.

Goudi Olympic Complex: The former badminton facility has been converted to a theater and concert hall.

Nikaia Olympic Complex: The former weightlifting facility has been converted to a convention and meeting center.

Galatsi Indoor Arena: Is in use as a basketball arena.

Olympic Press Center: Has been converted to a convention center.

International Broadcast Center: Has been converted to retail and office space.

Olympic Village: apartments were sold to low-income individuals (unlike Beijing, where the Olympic Village apartments will be sold to middle and upper-class residents).

Karaiskaki Stadium, Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Panthessaliko Stadium, Pankritio Stadium, Panpeloponisiako Stadium: all of these football facilities are still in use today for football matches and track and field meets. Karaiskaki Stadium is the home pitch for Greek football champions Olympiakos FC as well as for the Greek National team, the Kaftanzoglio Stadium is the home pitch for Iraklis FC, the Panthessaliko Stadium is home to Olympiakos Volou of Greece's second division and hosted the final of the Greek football cup two years ago. The Pankritio Stadium is home to OFI FC and Ergotelis FC and also recently hosted a Greek Cup final. Panpeloponisiako Stadium is home to Panahaiki FC of Greece's third division, and three years ago also hosted a Greek Cup final.

Schinias Rowing Center: still in use today as a recreational facility, as part of the Schinias National Park.

In addition, your article conveniently neglected to mention any of the other drastic infrastructure improvements which were made in Athens in the years leading up to the 2004 Summer Olympics; improvements which have greatly benefited the quality of life of the 4+ million residents of the greater Athens region and the millions of tourists who visit the city annually. A partial list of these major infrastructure improvements includes the brand-new Athens Metro, the suburban railway, the Athens tram (light rail) system, the Attiki Odos (Athens ring road or beltway), the Aigaleo Periferiaki Odos (a major highway on the western edge of Athens), the new Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport), improved facilities at the port of Piraeus (Greece's largest port and one of the world's largest), and much, much more.

It should be noted that works on many of these projects have continued even after the conclusion of the 2004 Olympic Games, as the Athens Metro and tram systems, as well as the Attiki Odos and suburban railway, are under continuous expansion. Expansions are also in the works at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, which has seen its passenger volume increase drastically since the Athens Olympic Games. Clearly, the hosting of the Olympic Games by Athens helped spur a number of much-needed projects and infrastructure improvements which are continuing to this day and which were not merely a fleeting oasis in the history of this city.

Your article also points out the expected boon to tourism that the Olympic Games will provide to Beijing, conveniently neglecting to mention that Greece has seen record amounts of tourists visit in 2005, 2006, and 2007, the three years immediately following the Olympic Games. It is reasonable to say that Greece's success in hosting the Olympic Games, and the positive image it portrayed to the world during those two weeks in August of 2004, have significantly contributed to this growth. In the past two years alone, two U.S. air carriers, Continental Airlines and U.S. Airways, have launched non-stop service to Greece, and numerous international air carriers, from Aer Lingus to Air China, have also launched routes to Greece. That is a clear indication of the successful growth in tourism to Greece in the past four years and is, in part, another positive legacy of the Athens Olympics.

It is tremendously irresponsible and reprehensible of you to portray such lies and inaccuracies under the guise of fair and objective reporting. One has to wonder what your sources (if any) were. Curiously, your article provides no citations of any kind to support your assertions on how the Athens Games were, and continue to be, a dismal failure for Athens and Greece. And maliciously, you took the opportunity to editorialize, and in turn, slander an entire country, by claiming that the Olympic Games will never return to Athens, or by claiming that the Olympic Games were awarded to Athens merely as a form of "tokenism." Do you have any evidence to support this contention? None is offered in your article.

In the weeks, months, and years leading up to the Athens Olympics, Athens was lambasted in the international press. Sometimes the criticism was justified, but in many cases, the criticism served no other purpose than to defame an entire country, to belittle Greece's ability to host the games, and to spread blatant, malicious falsehoods and misinformation to an international audience. Athens proved the naysayers and doubters wrong by successfully hosting the Olympic Games, by having all of its facilities ready on time for the games, by having trains, buses, airplanes and other public transport run reliably and on time, by hosting the games without any threat to the games' security, by outselling cities like Barcelona and Seoul (widely regarded to have hosted extremely successful Olympic Games), by providing spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Many in the international press were forced to apologize for their unfair and unjust criticism of Athens and Greece, and the games, in their aftermath, were widely lauded as a success.

You were right about one thing, however. A Greek Tragedy has taken place. However, the tragedy has nothing to do with the state of the Olympic facilities in Athens in the aftermath of the games. No, the true tragedy is that four years after the games, there still remain some irresponsible, yellow journalists like yourself who continue to perpetuate blatant myths and falsehoods against Athens, defaming an entire nation and providing a false impression to millions of readers in the process. A true Greek tragedy, if there ever was one.