A gold medal for Greece - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

A gold medal for Greece

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Posted: Tuesday, August 31, 2004 9:17 pm | Updated: 5:25 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Greece deserves thanks for the just-concluded Olympics and perhaps an apology from its many critics.The early line was that if the terrorists didn't get you in Athens, the traffic would. But none of the dire predictions materialized.

When the finals bills come in, Greece will have spent $9 billion to $10 billion hosting the games. More than 10 percent of that was for security, prompting some Greeks to argue that the United States should pay for the security since most of it went, by their reckoning, to protect Americans.

Greek officials took a more dispassionate view, saying that preparing for the games had galvanized the country into long-overdue and permanent improvements in roads, public transit, the airport, housing and amenities like pools and stadiums.

At one time it looked like those improvements were never going to get built. Greece won the games in 1997, but took such a relaxed and dilatory approach to preparing for them that by 2000 the International Olympic Committee was only a few months away from giving the games to South Korea.

But the Greeks surprised the world, and maybe themselves, with a crash program of construction that completed the sites on time, although workers were still planting, painting and paving even as the Olympic torch arrived in the stadium.

The preparation had a more somber benefit. For years, the U.S. State Department had accused the Greeks of slow-walking an investigation into November 17, a Marxist terrorist group responsible for decades of murders of American and British diplomats and attacks on the Greek offices of Western companies. But Greek police rounded up the gang in 2002.

In the end, the return of the games to a birthplace both ancient and modern after lapses of 1,611 and 108 years respectively was a success — for the athletes, the spectators and especially the Greeks who partied into the dawn after the closing ceremonies. They earned it.

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