ISSUE 65 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 33OlympicsAthEnS toUrISM And dEvElopMEnt CoMpAny'S CEo AlExIS gAlInoS hItS bACk At thE CrItICS of thE rESUltS of thE CIty'S 2004 olyMpIC gAMESAn Olympic AcropolisAthens has been widely criticised for its US$15bn Olympic Games in 2004. The city, now is in the grips of an economic crisis, is said to have left many of the buildings, which were built for the Games, to ruin.A UK Daily Mail newspaper investigation in 2008 found 21 out of 22 Olympic venues lay abandoned since the event and the stadiums over-run with rubbish and weeds. It said, the most striking 'legacy' was the huge sums spent, and wasted, on venues to hold sports with little following in Greece.Athens Tourism and Development Company's (ATEDCO) CEO Alexis Galinos told CMW the 2004 Olympic Games actually left a rich legacy in infrastructure and venues, despite negative media reports. Though, Galinos admitted it had not been easy for the city to manage the new areas and venues constructed for the needs of the Games."The Athens Games have undoubtedly helped Athens in becoming a modern European metropolis and in setting the infrastructure needed in terms of accommodation, public transport, highways, sports and recreational facilities," he said."Furthermore, it has led the way and increased the appeal for other sports events to take place in our city such as the Athens Special Olympics in 2011 and the International Children's Games in 2009,"While it is true that not all facilities have been fruitfully exploited since the Games, due to red tape, other facilities, such as the Badminton Stadium, the SEF stadium, the Olympic complex and the Tae-Kwon-Do stadium are offered for concerts, shows and conferences. The Badminton Stadium is nowadays considered as one of Athenians' favourite events venues, with events organised there from all over the world."Galinos said from a cultural point of view, all the aforementioned venues have expanded the events market and given the city the opportunity to bring artists and shows from all over the world. "These events are embraced by Athenian's who are longing for culture and art," he added. Galinos said ATEDCO's advice to London for leaving a lasting legacy from the 2012 Games would be: "to set down early on the strategy and mechanisms for the exploitation of the Olympic venues, once the Olympic Games are over, in order to show the people how the city has benefitted from the Games, culturally and financially". He added: "It is not easy to manage the new areas and venues constructed for the needs of the Olympic Games."Some have said the Athens Olympic experience sowed some of the seeds for the current economic problems in the country. Galinos is quick to refute this. "Investing in our city and its infrastructures can in no way be interlinked to the actual economic situation, as these works were indispensable to our city in order for Athens to become a visitor friendly metropolis," he said. "The return on investment we have had from the modernisation of the City of Athens still pays off. We would, therefore, have to admit at this point that the legacy left behind from the Olympic Games is considerable both in terms of the quality of our lives and the enhancement of our tourist product.""Finally," he said. "Preparing for the Olympic Games was a great challenge for all Greeks and during the preparation and the course of the Games we proved that there are no hurdles that can't be overcome when working together. Seven years after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games the country is facing the worst economic crisis in its history and it is with this legacy that we remain optimistic, keeping in mind, that we will have to work and struggle our way out of this crisis we have come up against all together." below: Athens' 2004 olympic games is reported to have cost US$15bnIt is not easy to manage the new areas and venues constructed for the needs of the Olympic Gamesceo of athens tourism and development company, aleXis galinos
Olympics34 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 65After the finishing line, WhAt Are the legACy ConClUsions, And is it All AboUt the bAlAnCe sheet?Winners and losers?Historically, there has been a focus on the financial cost of staging Olympics, but the value to the meetings industry from the Games comes in many forms, including improved destination infrastructure and marketing.In China (2008) and the two boycotted Games in Los Angeles (1984) and Russia (1980), the political stakes were high and cities were under huge pressure to improve perceptions.London is under pressure to deliver on legacy, having based its bid case firmly around the issue.Let's start with the money trail, however. Sydney 2000 reported its Games cost US$6.5bn of which the public paid $2.4bn. Sydney's business events rise would appear to be making a good return on that investment.Probably Atlanta (1996) and Athens (2004) present the two extremes for the money men looking for case study financial lessons.Although the Athens Tourism and Development Company maintains the city derived value from its investment, perception is that the 2004 Games acted as a drag on an economy with organisers admitting they should have put more thought into legacy use of venues, many of which stood empty for years. The $15bn cost to the smallest country to stage the Games possibly contributed to the current debt ills. Atlanta 1996, the Games immediately before our case studies began in 2000, is a Games that transformed a provincial backwater with infrastructure improvements. The cost, $1.8bn, is modest by modern standards, and paid for by commercial sponsorship. Organisers claim they even made a profit of $10m.The heavy reliance on corporate sponsorship did, however, led to the accusation that the Games were over-commercialised.A report by European Olympic officials criticised crowding in the Olympic Village, the quality of food and the transport system. A reflection, perhaps, of the downside of taking the commercial big bucks and handing everything to the private sector.Tellingly IOC President Samaranch simply called the Atlanta Games "most exceptional" in a break from protocol. He had traditionally labelled each Games "the best Olympics ever" at the closing ceremony, a practice he resumed in Sydney in 2000.Value in kindIn China, the value of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games lies only partially in the huge infrastructure developments. New perceptions of the country far removed from the old pre-Games stereotypes dominated by political issues and pollution scares.Extravagant opening and closing ceremonies may not please every National Olympic Committee Financial Director, but Sydney and Beijing's creativity certainly delivered the event wow factor.London is hoping for a £2.6bn Olympic bonanza and many venue managers hope the 2012 Games will ignite a traditionally quiet time of year for the meetings industry.Training camps and related facilities for final preparations have already meant good venue bookings. CEO of Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Bruce MacMillan says the Olympics is an events festival as much as a sporting festival. "There is not only huge demand for hotel meeting space, but also for offsite and non-traditional venues. Some corporations and organisations may book a place for the whole Olympiad." Convention Bureau Visit London has drawn up a fair pricing charter and Director of Business Tourism, Tracy Halliwell, says a host city has to look at is the long-term hotel legacy. "Athens and to a certain extent Beijing fell foul of this. You have to make sure people have a good experience," she said. "There was feedback from people panicking that London was too expensive and a difficult destination to do business with. What the charter says is, 'If you use this bunch of people, we can guarantee that you're not going to be ripped off," she added.Kurt Wehinger, GM of the Grand Millennium Beijing, has worked in three Olympic host cities during the Games and says meeting spaces in Beijing were sold at very high rates and were fully booked, although Early Bird customers paid dearly. "Five-star hotels were selling rooms 18 months before the Games for US$800 per night, and in June 2008 asking $250 for the same rooms."Time your meetings run: Citius, Altius, Fortius.