The new Olympic legacy

By Marilane Koutis

Every now and then I feel that Greek gene kick in. No, I have not grown a mustache, and I don’t have to wax three quarters of my body. Not yet anyway.

When the Olympics were in planning and development mode, I was living in Greece. Every day when I rode the bus I passed the big sign in between the new Wal-Mart-like shopping center and the 72,000 seat Olympic Stadium, that read 343,234,234 days until the Olympics (ok, it was more like 1,000, but whatever). Fortunately, I bought all the cute Olympic paraphernalia when the drachma was still in currency, because when the Euro took hold prices more than doubled. I bought the cute Olympic mugs, the t-shirts, the pins, the calendars. I can even dry my ‘Greekish bod’ with a full-sized, authentic Athens 2004 towel. The gods would be proud.

The pulling together of the Olympics took the standard Greek format: Greeks vehemently denied any sort of problems, progress was slow and near-catastrophic in some instances, and in the eleventh hour the Greeks pulled through with shining colors. There is nothing unusual about any of this.

I was amazed at how good everything looked. I was living back in Calgary when the games commenced, but nostalgia seeped into my bones as I watched them on TV. The opening ceremonies were fantastic, full of art, history and a cultural zing. The venues were simply amazing and the Metro looked like a museum. They ran into artifacts and an ancient city beneath the city while they were developing the Metro (how typical), so they incorporated it. With glassed-in artifacts still embedded into the wall, marble flooring everywhere, and a beautiful marriage of culture and history it was truly amazing. In a country where you can literally travel two hours to an island and rent a room without pressurized water, this is amazing. The more I travel the more I see this con- cept–government funding which pours tons of money into the tourist and public areas, and then two steps later a level of life that exists on or below the basic necessities.

While the 2004 Olympic torch has been extinguished, the heat from its flame and the effects of the games linger. New venues decorate the city, and a plethora of new highways and roads reduce traffic, profanities screamed between drivers, and likely accident rates. As well, the Olympic Village, which housed athletes during the games, is being put up for grabs for low-income families. The 2000 apartments north of Athens will be sold at reduced cost to the lucky winners of a four-day lottery.

With the same range of emo-tions as a woman in labour, the Greeks pulled their baby through. Despite apprehension and doomsayers’ prophecies of disaster, Greeks grin and smile with that look of sure satisfaction and unfaltered pride. The ideal may not always follow through as planned, but the journey is sure colorful. Like Ouzo, a Greek event may go down burning, but it’ll never leave your memory.

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