The fallout from the Greece government’s debt crisis seem incomprehensible. Multiple murders on the streets of Athens, including a pregnant woman in a bank, have resulted from violent rioting over government-ordered cutbacks in pay and pensions to public service employees.
(Pawn Stars are the new gods in Athens)
While the bloated bureaucracy of the Greek government deserves the immediate blame for the current upheaval, there’s another major contributor to the civil unrest roiling the avenues of Athens.
The 2004 Olympics.
As I’ve watched coverage of the Greek debt crisis in past months, it’s astonishing how little attention has been paid to how the financial black hole wrought by the 2004 Athens Games played a role in the now upside-down Greek economy.
The total cost of the 2004 Athens Olympics will never be known, but estimates range from $15-$20 billion. After Greece secured the right to host The Games, the country’s ruling PASOK socialist government in 2000 budgeted a cost of three million Euros to stage the entire endeavor.
The raw cost of the Athens Games and the Greeks inability to retrofit many of the Olympic venues - which cost billions to construct - for subsequent public use has certainly weighed down the country’s economy since 2004.
But much more integral to the demise of the Greek economy was how all the last-minute borrowing required to stage The Games affected the country’s credit standing in the Eurozone and the world.
As previously noted, the Socialist Greek government charged to run The Games wildly underestimated costs by around five-fold. The leading contributor to cost overruns for the Athens Games was construction delays caused by work stoppages by Greece’s public service and private labor unions.
For years those delays caused extremely negative media coverage of Greece’s preparation for The Games in Europe and throughout the world. It also resulted in massive, last-minute borrowing by Greece from many of the same European countries concerned about the ability of the Greeks to put on a proficient Olympics.
The result: After 2004, it reportedly became much more expensive for the Greece government to borrow money from anybody for anything. Couple that with the economic downturn in late 2008 and you have what we have now in Greece.
Also caught in the undertow was the PASOK Socialist Government, which lost power after The Games because of dramatic Olympic cost overruns caused by the construction walkouts by Greek labor unions.
That leads me to perhaps Barack Obama’s most notable success since he took over the White House: Losing the 2016 Olympics to Rio.