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Athens Venue Deal

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Just as Sydney's facilities slowly overcame the "white elephant" tag, Athens is also finally getting some joy:

ATHENS, May 15, 2006 (AFP) - Greece on Monday said it had concluded its first long-term lease deal for one of the venues built to host the Athens 2004 Olympics, nearly a year after a process to attract private investment in the stadiums began.

Hellenic Olympic Properties, the state company in charge of the venues' post-Games management, on Monday signed a 12.5 million euro (16.1 million dollar) deal to turn the Goudi Badminton Hall into a multi-purpose cultural and leisure centre, the company said.

Covering an area of 2.5 hectares (25,000 square metres), the Goudi Hall will be leased for 20 years to a consortium of Greek show business developers following a tender issued in July 2005, it said.

The hall lies at the heart of a 30-hectare park which is to become ``a great cultural park akin to La Villette in Paris,'' said Michalis Adam, part of the winning consortium.

Hellenic Olympic Properties CEO Christos Hadjiemmanuil said the deal would save the Greek state an annual maintenance cost of 1.2 million euros on Goudi.

In general, the Greek state is trying to cope with an annual maintenance cost estimated at 100 million euros (129 million dollars) for all the venues under its supervision.

Hellenic Olympic Properties controls a portfolio of 15 former Olympic sites that include some two dozen venues, most of which have seen only sporadic use since September 2004.

Hadjiemmanuil on Monday said his company would soon sign leases on another eight venues, including the Galatsi Gymnastics Hall, the International Broadcasting Centre, the Hellenikon Canoe-Kayak Slalom course, the Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre and the Heraklion Football Stadium.

The Athens 2004 Games were the costliest in Olympic history, partly because of increased security costs in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The cost of the Games -- originally put at 4.6 billion euros -- was last calculated at 13 billion euros, pushing Greece's public deficit to 6.9 percent of GDP in 2004, far beyond the three percent level permitted by the European Union stability pact.


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