Athens infrastructure boosted by Olympic Games 2004
While Rio’s residents are currently enjoying watching the finest athletes in the world compete at the Olympic Games 2016, they are also set to enjoy long-term benefits from welcoming them to their city.
Infrastructure improvements including new roads, metro lines and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system are set to provide a lasting legacy from Rio 2016, which will make getting around the city easier for cariocas and tourists for many years to come.
It is a similar story in previous Olympic host cities, with the Games often acting as a catalyst for the construction of much-needed public services. The Greek capital Athens, for example, continues to benefit from a number of infrastructural improvements that were made ahead of the Olympic Games 2004.
These include the opening of Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, which is now used by approximately 18.1 million passengers each year, as well as improvements to roads and underground train systems. In total, approximately 90km of new roads were built ahead of the 2004 Games, while a further 120km were widened, and a new computerised traffic management system was also installed to help manage traffic around the city.
The new and renovated urban and underground systems, meanwhile, are capable of carrying one million passengers a day (approximately 20 per cent of the city’s population), with expansions to the Athens Metro and the creation of the Proastiakos – a new suburban railway system linking the airport and suburban towns to the city – continuing to benefit Athens residents.
In addition to the infrastructure improvements, efforts made to improve the image of Athens before the Games also continue to reap rewards. In particular, the renovated waterfront areas, higher quality hotel accommodation and the refurbishment of many dilapidated buildings have all helped to beautify the city and boost tourism. Subsequently, the number of tourists visiting Greece continues to grow, with the country welcoming a record 23.5 million holidaymakers in 2015 and the Olympic host city remaining one of the most popular destinations.
Many of the venues that were renovated or built for the 2004 Games also remain in use today.
The city’s Olympic Stadium, which was built in 1979 and extensively renovated ahead of the Games, is now the home of AEK Athens – one of the country’s most important football teams. In addition to AEK matches, the stadium regularly hosts major concerts by the likes of U2, Bon Jovi and Madonna, while it was also the stage for the 2007 UEFA Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool.
The neighbouring Olympic Indoor Hall – which was used for artistic gymnastics and trampoline in 2004, as well as the basketball finals – is the regular home court for professional basketball club Panathinaikos Athens. It also staged the EuroLeague Basketball Final Four event in 2007 and the FIBA Olympic basketball qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games 2008. Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez, meanwhile, are among the stars to have performed concerts at the arena.
Other venues still in use today include the Karaiskakis Stadium, home of leading Greek football club Olympiacos; the Schinias Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre, which hosted the 2008 European Rowing Championships; and the Peace and Friendship Stadium, which stages the EuroLeague matches of Olympiacos’s basketball team.
Among the venues to be converted for alternative uses are the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre, which has become a police training facility; the Goudi Olympic Hall, which is now a theatre; and the Faliron Sports Pavilion, which has become an events and convention and event centre. The International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre have also been converted, into a shopping mall and the home of the Greek Ministry of Health respectively.