Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A look at the aging symbols of Greece's pre-crisis spending.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Summer Olympics, a reminder for Greece, a nation €347 billion ($465 billion U.S.) in debt today, of its less austere days.
In 2014 figures, the final cost of building for the Games is estimated to been around €11 billion ($15 billion U.S.), well above initial estimates when Athens was first awarded the Summer Olympics by the IOC.
"It was a waste of money and all for show. It cost a lot," Dimitris Mardas, who was Greece's general secretary for trade at the time, tells Reuters. Some supporters of the 2004 Games still defend the event. "If you put it on a scale," Hellenic Olympic Committee head Spyros Kapralos tells the newswire, "the positives outweigh the negatives, but unfortunately we weren't able to communicate that."
Athens originally hoped to host the 1996 Games, the Olympic Centennial. Instead, it finished second to Atlanta for a number of reasons, including IOC concerns over air pollution and whether or not Greece could afford the billions required to improve its traffic and security infrastructure. At the time, some members of the Greek delegation cried conspiracy, with major Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola's home city being selected over the birthplace of the first modern Olympics.
A better-organized effort in 1997 finally brought the Games back to the Greek capital—and with it, billions of Euros in construction. But after years of inactivity following their victory, then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch called the Greek building efforts, "the worst organizational crisis in his career."
A new organizing committee was formed shortly after. By the opening ceremonies on August 13, 2004, new tram system and airport, an expanded metro system, improved roads, and permanent athletic facilities had all been built.
This summer, Reuters photographers Yannis Behrakis and Yorgos Karahalis have been documenting the remains of Athens' 2004 Summer Olympics. Many facilities are still used for athletics. Some sites sit idle as private developers struggle to secure financing for their redevelopment plans.
Other structures have seen new life since the closing ceremonies with varying degrees of success. A shopping mall now stands on what was originally the International Broadcast Center. The former athletes' village has struggled as an affordable housing complex. The Hellinikon softball stadium sees no use at all.