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Housing Shortage of Olympic Proportions

Attention, sports fans: If you're thinking about going to Athens for the 2004 Summer Olympics, you might want to take along a tent. In March 2002, the Greek government announced that no more hotels will be built before the games—in spite of the fact that additional rooms are needed for the thousands of spectators anticipated (about 1 million people visited Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Games).

Though under pressure from the International Olympic Committee to build, Athens foresees problems with post-Olympics overcapacity (the push for new hotels continues). According to Greek National Tourist Organization director George Tambakis, "We have enough deluxe hotels downtown—it's an old city, and the infrastructure can't support much more than renovating or expanding existing hotels." Alternatives such as nearby resorts, homestays, and cruise ships are being studied. Athletes will stay in the Olympic village in Attica, near the Olympic Stadium outside Athens. Is Tambakis worried about spectators being too far from the events?"Not really. The distance isn't as great as it is in the United States—Greece is a small country."

The housing shortage is not the IOC's only logistical headache: construction of sporting venues and important roadwork have suffered setbacks, sometimes because residents have filed injunctions against building in their neighborhoods. "We really have to keep pressure on Athens," said Athens IOC coordinator Denis Oswald. "They are more delayed and they still have more problems to resolve than Sydney had at this stage." Without some fast action, that famous Greek hospitality might leave some spectators without a roof over their heads.

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