ATHENS – Nearly 17 years after it opened in a grand hoopla welcoming home the Olympics, the stadium where the opening ceremony and track and field events were hosted in Greece's capital will be renovated at a cost of 43 million euros ($50.68 million).
The New Democracy government said it wants to transfer the largely-abandoned stadium – one of many around the world not used after the games end as they move around every four years instead of being set permanently in Athens.
The plan is to provide training facilities for athletes as well as serve as a recreational outlet for local residents, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) instead of letting it be taken over by weeds.
Announcing the plans at a special event in the stadium, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said every visitor to the stadium Greeks should feel pride and nostalgia in remembering the 2004 Games, the opening ceremony drawing kudos.
He noted, echoing leaders of other countries not long after the games would end in their cities, that those in Greece were followed by “disappointment that very important facilities were abandoned,” instead of continuing to be used in some fashion.
He said the money for the rehab would come from the European Union-backed 2021-2026 Recovery and Resilience Facility.
“Our aim is to balance the budget in three years and for revenue to start coming in by the fifth year,” the premier noted without explaining how that would happen.
The initial stages of the revamp will see the central stadium made more energy efficient and repairs made to the central roof and renovations for the indoor gym, the velodrome, the tennis courts and stadium’s landscaping.
The new Olympic Park of Athens is expected to attract more of the 20,000 people that currently visit it weekends, Mitsotakis said, many of them there to gawk at the ruins and disuse.
The project, he added, is one of the 10 large-scale plans included in the government’s recovery plan, Greece 2.0.
In a recent report, Yahoo News said Greece spent some 11.9 billion euros ($14.03 billion) to host the games in 2004, some 108 years after the first modern games were held in Athens.
Greece lost the bid for the 1996 Olympics that would have marked a century after the first games, the event held in Atlanta because Greek officials didn't persuade the International Olympic Game that Greece was ready for them.
A near decade-long economic and austerity crisis that began in 2010 added to the decrepit state of the stadium and other abandoned 2004 venues, with the report adding before Mitsotakis made the announcement that “The official Games village is now covered in graffiti and completely trashed, and there is no money to invest in rebuilding,” the facility or the other venues.