Pictures Don’t Always Tell the Entire Story: Greek Olympic Edition

The following is from Dr. Nola Agha, an Assistant Professor in the Sport Management Program at the University of San Francisco. She teaches courses in research methods and strategic management and previously taught sport finance and sport economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She worked in international business operations for several years and has also consulted to the sport and fitness industry by conducting economic impact studies, competitive analysis, and feasibility studies for clients in MLB, NBA, minor league hockey, local organizing committees, and fitness organization. Dr. Agha’s research interests lie at the intersection of finance, economics, and strategic management. She studies public goods and externalizations, the economic impacts of teams and stadiums, the efficiency and equity outcomes of stadium subsidies, and a variety of issues related to minor league baseball.

In this guest post she comments on a recent story regarding Olympic Venues in Greece and why a picture may not tell a thousand words!

Once the venue for Olympic Beach Volleyball

Once the venue for Olympic Beach Volleyball


A few years back I wrote a case study on Olympic legacy. At the time, there was a newspaper article similar to this one in the Daily Mail claiming that 21 of 22 venues in Athens were unused. In the English press it was the only available information on post-games venue usage. Having lived in Greece  the year before the Olympics I read through the local press and contacted a colleague who still lived there. His take was very different, arguing instead that most of these venues are used (although not all of them for public usage). For example, he said:

– a big part of the International Press Center had been turned into the “Golden Hall”, the second biggest mall in Greece (although the plan to turn part of the IBC into an Olympic Games Museum never happened).

– Both Panathinaikos FC and AEK FC are using the Olympic Stadium. Panathinaikos BC is also using the Olympic Basketball Stadium.

– The Basketball Stadium in Hellinikon is used by AEK BC, previously also by Panionios BC. Its also used for the final of greek basketball cup an other larger events.

– The tae-kwon-do stadium surroundings in Faliro have been turned to a leisure center (cinemas/cafes and the like) plus business center (a few big companies are located there). (the planned transformation into “the biggest conference center in Greece” will likely not happen)

A good number of the photos in the article were venues built at the former airport (the Helliniko Sports Complex). When the Olympic Committee had to build a bizarre array of sporting venues they knew would never be used again — but had to somehow be in proximity to the core (in a city of 4 million people) — the enormous plot of unused land at the former airport seemed perfect (for sports like baseball, softball, canoeing, etc.). There is no doubt those were left to rot.

There is also a photo of Panathenaic stadium meant as another example of demise. Instead, its actually an example of the opposite. The venue now has a museum and requires paid admission whereas before tourists could walk in for free.

The photos are eye opening. The ongoing operating costs are without a doubt a burden. There are absolutely examples of mismanagement, cost overruns, and empty venues. As an analyst and consultant I will certainly never advocate in any way for the spending associated with the Olympics. However, from my perspective the article does overstate the case a bit. Even so, we can stay tuned for similar stories about Sochi and Rio. The pattern will undoubtedly continue.

– Nola Agha