Athens Olympic Stadium forced to close – Sport & Society

The largest sports infrastructure in Greece, the Athens Olympic Stadium is closing its doors for an indefinite period due to a technical study revealing weaknesses concerning the stability of the metal and polycarbonate elements of the imposing roof. The adjacent Vélodrome is also affected by this exceptional administrative measure.

View of the Athens Olympic Stadium (Credits – OAKA Athens Olympic Complex)

Nearly 20 years later, Athens and Greece continue to live with the mixed memories of the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While the Greek economic crisis had, in recent years, highlighted the lack of planning of the authorities of the time, with also a recognized and assumed responsibility of the organizers of the time and even of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the future sports facilities inherited from this edition of the Games still poses a problem today.

If equipment designed in a sustainable manner was sold by the State to contribute to bailing out the debt, other sites remain abandonedwhile still others are occasionally used.

Among the emblematic sites, the Athens Olympic Stadium – which remains the largest sports facility in the country with nearly 70,000 seats – hosts concerts and festivities, as well as sporting events such as the European matches of the Panathinaikos football team. .

Since its construction in the early 1980s, the building has hosted several major events, including the European Athletics Championships in 1982, the Mediterranean Games in 1991, and the World Athletics Championships. in 1997, before the apotheosis of 2004, a year in which the eyes of the world were focused on Athens, host of the Summer Games for the second time in its history after the 1896 edition.

Also, in view of the largest sporting event on the planet, the Greek authorities and the organizers confided the task of architect Santiago Calatrava to redevelop the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA) and renovate the Olympic Stadium. At the start of the 2000s, the latter thus benefited from the installation of a roof and immense white arches – at a cost of 256 million euros – all in the perfect spirit of design resolutely modern, a true signature of the Spanish architect.

However, structural problems today seem to compromise the durability of these 9,000-ton elements, partly designed in polycarbonate.

In fact, a recent technical study reveals possible weaknesses in the stability of the roof which no longer meets standards. Similar concerns were also raised about the Vélodrome, the architecture of which follows the lines of the Olympic Stadium.

As noted in particular by the OAKA in a press release published this week :

As part of the contract between the Ministry of Sports, OAKA and TAIPED for the project “Renovation of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex”, a study was presented concerning an in-depth inspection of the Calatrava metal constructions and the polycarbonate roofs of the sports facilities. the OAKA.

In this study, it is indicated that the metal constructions of the roof of the Olympic Stadium and the Vélodrome do not meet the standards in force.

Based on the above, and with a sense of responsibility, all sporting and cultural activities at the Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome are suspended from today.

A second, more in-depth study will follow soon in order to confirm or not the conclusions of the current study..

The publication of the technical study comes as a renovation of the Olympic Stadium and the OAKA Complex has been planned around a forecast budget of 56.3 million euros, 20 years after the Games.

The overall bill should, however, increase if the risks – particularly of collapse – are confirmed.

Shortly after the announcement of the closure of two of the OAKA sports venues, the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) in turn published a press release in which he approves the decision taken for the safety of spectators and athletes, while expressing his wish that measures be adopted as soon as possible so as not to disrupt the use of the vast complex.

As the said Committee explains:

In addition to the creation of sports facilities, we must also ensure their maintenance in order to maintain them in the best possible conditions to welcome athletes in complete safety. At the same time, they must be equipped with modern equipment adapted to the requirements and development of each sport.

[L’HOC] requests to accelerate the procedures and studies on the stability of the Calatrava constructions, in order to allow an immediate start of the works – in case they are necessary – for the harmonious and safe operation of the OAKA.

The HOC finally emphasizes that the Athens Olympic Sports Complex was and remains the heart of Greek sport and that it must therefore continue to function for the thousands of athletes who use it daily..

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The Olympic Stadium and the Athens Velodrome are not the only facilities built according to Santiago Calatrava’s plans to experience some setbacks.

In recent years, the project of “City of Sports” neighborhood Tor Vergata in Rome (Italy) gave rise to strong criticism, the two immense sails remaining unfinished due to high inflation in construction costs, namely 660 million euros against 60 million initially announced.

Intended to host the World Swimming Championships in 2009 – before the competition was relocated to the Foro Italico – the work was subsequently integrated into the Olympic and Paralympic bid for Rome 2000, with the idea of ​​establishing the gymnastics events there, as well as the volleyball tournament, and the final stages of the basketball tournament.

After the withdrawal of the candidacy, the project was put back on the agenda with a view to the candidacy for the 2024 Olympics before the latter was forced to abandon, for lack of institutional support at the local level.


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