Pictures show how Greece’s Olympic park, once brimming with people and enthusiasm for sport, now lies crumbling and desolate. From the velodrome to the swimming pool, it is clear that the multi-billion pound developments have not been beneficial for the local community 12 years on from the world event. It is feared Rio’s sporting legacy could produce a similar white elephant in the years after it hosts the world.
Freelance journalist Brecht De Vleeschauwer from Belgium travelled to Athens to document the condition of the legacy in the nation which invented the Olympics over two and a half thousand years ago.
‘I had been reading about Olympic infrastructure, so I got curious and decided to go to Greece,’ said Brecht. ‘I also had a weird fascination for any kind of sport infrastructure and abandoned places. What I saw when I went there was bad management and wasted investment. Local people that I spoke to seemed to think it’s a shame, but in the end they don’t care very much anymore as Greece is currently facing other problems. But of course the Olympic money contributed to the bigger economic problem in Greece.’
The Greek Summer Olympics of 2004 cost an estimated six billion pounds. 28 sports were represented at over 35 bespoke venues. A total of 301 medal ceremonies took places over a 16-day period. 10,500 athletes took part in the games from 201 National Olympic Committees. 45,000 people were volunteers throughout the games.
‘There is a kind of injustice that I felt when taking these pictures. The Olympics in Greece was supposed to be the realisation of a romantic dream harking back to Athens and to the “roots” of the Olympics,’ said Brecht. ‘Olympic investments are always presented as beneficial for all, but if we see this kind of scenes we can think twice.’