Ten years ago the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games staged the summer spectacle hosting the world’s greatest sportsmen and women.
“Welcome Home” proclaimed banners across the city which was awarded the Games ahead of favourites Rome.
But a decade later many of the one time gleaming stadiums have been abandoned, others at times get to host weddings and conferences.
The 8.5 billion euro cost of hosting the 17-day Games was double the initial estimate and has left sharp criticism. “The biggest mistake in our history,” said three time Olympic champion weightlifter Pyrros Dimas. Many blame the government.
“The law, the Olympic law that helped the quick construction of those facilities, did not make the government also take the necessary permits and do the necessary steps in order for those facilities to be properly utilised after the Olympic Games,” Spyros Capralos, President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee pointed out.
But the Olympics did leave behind a brand-new underground train system and airport to boost transport links for the city of four million.
The International Olympic Committee has said has worked to make sure Athens problematic legacy is not repeated.
“The IOC currently looks very carefully at the post-Olympic legacy of the cities. The IOC is looking at the transformation impact that the Olympic Games have on a city and on a country. And usually that means brand new infrastructure because the Olympic Games serve as a catalyst for that, new sports infrastructure for the city and also plenty of intangibles,” explained Stratos Safioleas, the head of International Media Athens 2004.
The weed-infested stadiums which hosted the world’s best as they attained glory are regarded by many as a reminder of a lost opportunity to boost tourism in the country, its biggest industry.
Just a year after the Olympics ended hotels which were built for spectators at the Games closed down. For many this is not a golden 10-year anniversary.