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Greece May Finally Sell Some Olympic Venues

The country aims to raise €11 billion through asset sales by 2016
Hellinikon was Greece’s major airport from 1938 to 2001
Hellinikon was Greece’s major airport from 1938 to 2001Photograph by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

It’s been nearly a decade since crowds swarmed across the site of Athens’s old Hellinikon airport, which was transformed into a venue for the 2004 Olympics. Today stray dogs wander among the decaying stadiums and buildings as a skeleton crew of security guards keeps watch. At 6.2 million square meters (1,532 acres), about three times the size of Monaco, the property is one of the largest unused tracts of urban real estate in Europe. Next to the Olympic facilities—among them baseball and softball fields and a canoeing center—sit several old aircraft hangars and terminals and a functioning marina. There are even some actual ancient ruins.

As Greece seeks more debt relief from its European Union partners, the government plans next month to select a developer to rebuild Hellinikon. But the property’s decade of decay says a lot about the country’s problematic asset sales program. Under the terms of Greece’s bailout agreement with the EU, proceeds will go to pay down the debt. A recession has wiped out a fifth of Greece’s economy, and left one in four adults jobless.