Kasselakis Discusses Setbacks, Successes of 2004 Olympics

Stefanos Kasselakis ’05 began his presentation on the 2004 Athens Olympics in Greece by greeting his audience in Greek. Kasselakis, a native of Greece, presented the Athens Olympics as the realization of a political and cultural dream. Before the Olympics, Greece was, according to Prime Minister Andres Pappendreous, a “nation of waiters.” The election of a new leader in 1996, Costar Simitis, which “made the Olympic dream possible for Greece,” was a turning point. However, he inherited a dismal economic situation, with a high budget deficit, soaring inflation, and rampant unemployment. Simitis immediately instituted a program to rejuvenate the Greek economy and modernize infrastructure. He put forward two visions for Greece’s future: first, to join the European Union and Eurozone, and second, to host an Olympic Games. In 1997, Gianna Angelopaulo-Deskalaki wrote the Bid File to the International Olympic arguing that Athens should host the 2004 Olympics. She articulated the economic benefits for Greece, while persuasively referring to the sentimental history of Athens and the Olympics. However, once Athens was selected as the location for the 2004 Summer Games, little was done. When development began, the negative publicity and pessimistic press presented a “psychological obstacle” for the Greek people. Even after one person declared Baghdad the only city worse for Olympic Games, the Greeks persevered. The Olympics prompted Greece to build several structures that will likely benefit the nation in the future. Athens International Airport was built to handle crowds the Olympics would bring. It now ranks number one among airports in Europe. Likewise, the METRO, Athens’s subway system, updated public transportation and led to the discovery of many archeological pieces, now displayed in the spacious main stations. Attiki Motorway, a beltway around Athens, built specifically for Olympics traffic, now serves the city well year-round. In addition, Press Village, originally built to house the hundreds of journalists and reporters in Athens, will next year begin to house the Ministry of Education. The OAKA Stadium built for the Olympics will soon host a Soccer Championship. Also, the Olympic boxing stadium, once a sandlot in a dilapidated neighborhood, is now the home to the world’s premier boxing center. Overall, the 2004 Athens Games cost $14.1 billion. Nonetheless, Greece will reap immense benefits. According to Keynesian economics, the money the government puts into the economy will sow wealth that three years from now Greeks will begin harvesting.