06 March 2010

A Greek Tragedy of Olympic Proportions

The organizers of the 2004 Athens Olympics should have included rioting as a demonstration sport. This way, the Greek population could have been rioting before the Games in anticipation of the huge debt that they were going to assume and thus would have been better prepared to battle the police to protest the generalized economic crisis the most expensive Games ever helped to foment. The riots of the past ten days are in response to the “austerity measures” passed by the Greek parliament. The Greeks are desperately trying to cut their deficit from 19% of GDP to the 3% required by the EU. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to slash social services, pensions, public salaries, and to raise taxes

The 2004 Olympics cost somewhere between 9 and 12 billion Euros (Games initially budgeted at 1 billion), with about 15% of this money going to a one-time security outlay that also had the effect of violating Greek territorial sovereignty. There is some evidence to suggest that the Greek government and Organizing Committee deliberately inflated the cost of the Games so that it would be relatively easy to reduce the national debt in 2005 and 2006. Oops. 

Unfotunately for the Greeks, the public borrowing stimulated by the Olympics was €43billion in 2004 alone! Constructing a tourism-based economy on the verge of a global crisis of consumption might have improved urban mobility, but if the tourists aren't coming to spend money no one is. Oops. The Geran foreign minister suggested that Greece sell some of its unoccupied islands (presumably to Germany) to releive some debt. The debt servicing on the unused stadiums continues to be a crushing burden on the city government and the vast majority of Olympic facilities go unused as the world watches the streets of Athens go up in flames. As Greek police moblize against student protesters (killing one so far), the protests are spreading across Europe and the government is sending its message through a shock doctrine vis a vis the passing of emergency legislation, it is good to remember the words of the former Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis who promised that the Olympics were "a major investment, which will yield in the coming period"

2010 Gold medal for riots in response to unfulfilled Olympic development: Greece
Let’s see if the Canadians can match their performance in Vancouver

p.s. Yesterday, during an interview with Brazil's Minister for Strategic Relations, Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, I asked whether or not the debt crisis of post-Olympic Greece might cause the Brazilian Federal Government to reconsider the strategic risk involved in R$30 billion outlay for the 2016 Games or the R$ 4.5 billion earmarked for World Cup stadium construction. Guimarães focused his response on the development of transportation infrastructure, a question that I have repeatedly drawn attention to as being criminally limited to small sections of the city. Oddly enough, the minister danced around the question until arriving at the point where he retorically asked, "Why would President Obama have gone to Copenhagen to fight for the Games if they weren't a good thing? Why was Spain so interested in hosting the Games?" 

1 comment:

Adam said...

Answer: Because Obama and Zapatero won't be running for office in 2016 or 2017.

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