Athens Olympics


Athens Summer Olympic Games 2004

Olympic Village Architectural Competition

The Athens Olympics Organizing Committee (ATHOC) undertook a major international architectural competition for the preliminary design of the Village to accommodate athletes from both the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. As in Sydney and Barcelona, the organizers planned to develop a new, master-planned community (as opposed to adapting an existing facility, such as a University campus as was done in Atlanta). The process initially involved developing a comprehensive "Terms of Reference" for the competition to provide guidance to the competitors as to the unique requirements of the Village and how best to acknowledge the challenges of the temporary requirements of the athlete Village (such as security, food services, etc.) vs. the permanent requirements of the eventual residents of the community. There were many respondents to the competition and a jury of both Greek and international architects and planners was assembled to judge the results. Peter Rowe, formerly head of the Harvard Graduate School of Architecture, acted as President of the Jury. Many of the solutions closely followed the planning criteria which were part of the "Terms of Reference" and, therefore, provided workable solutions to the proposed development process. Gordon Linden acted as Technical Advisor to ATHOC in preparing the initial criteria and then supporting the jury effort.

Perspective view of  potential neighborhood residential blocks

Aerial perspective of the proposed Village


The Olympic Village

The development of the Athens Olympic Village was undertaken in the face of several major obstacles and challenges. Firstly, ATHOC, having failed in an earlier bid to attract interest from private developers in undertaking the development of the project, had to find an entity who could assume responsibility for the Village. After considerable delay and discussion, the Labor Housing Authority of Greece, was designated as this entity. The Authority, which Greek workers fund through contributions from salary payments, provides loans and develops housing projects throughout the country; it was determined that the Authority had interest in the project and could ensure that the housing would be sold to its contributors after the Games. Another considerable challenge was finding a suitable site located within the Athens area with the necessary land area to accommodate such a large project; most land holdings in Athens and Greece in general are in the hands of numerous small property owners and assembling large properties for development projects is quite difficult. A suitable site was located outside the heavily developed parts of the City, on a gently sloping plain which receives what cooling breezes may be available during the hot summer months. As a greenfields project, the development required not only major infrastructure including new roads, water and sewer, telecommunications, etc. but care needed to be taken to preserve an ancient aqueduct which was found running through the site.
The resulting project, which closely followed the "template" for grassroots (i.e. new) Olympic Villages which was developed at Barcelona '92, as shown in the photos below, provided a very attractive environment for the athletes which, in the months since the tragedy of 9/11 in New York, was highly responsive to security concerns in that it's relatively remote location ensured that it could be well-secured and operated in a manner which respected the needs of the competitors for a high quality, secure "planned" community. The main dining room, as at Sydney, was developed and operated in a major temporary structure; food services were provided by Aramark, a highly experienced organization which provides food services for many large scale venues including stadia, universities, etc.


International Zone with shops, bank, Olympic Museum and other services




The main dining hall provided seating for over 4,000 athletes and staff


Other Venues

As a city renown for it's auto congestion, poor transport infrastructure and generally unprepossessing architecture - with the notable exceptions of the historical monuments - Athens certainly surprised visitors and participants at the Summer Games with a range of new, highly functional improvements including a new international airport, freeways, modern sports venues and a multimodal transport system (i.e. metro, tram and buses). Shown in the photographs below, are a few of the scenes at the main Sports Stadium complex. When Greece bid on the Olympics, one of the key features of the "win strategy" was to indicate that many of the sports venues were "already in place" such as the venues located at the Main Stadium and Sports Complex. As time wore on, the existing facilities were radically upgraded, several with the help of Spanish architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava whose main stadium proved a major headache for organizers in erecting the roof structure. In the end, the roof was up and the show went on - without a hitch.

Calatrava's spectacular covered cycling venue was another key facility in the Main Sports complex