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Greece loses Mediterranean Games over budget cuts

Greece loses Mediterranean Games over budget cuts

More than six years after successfully organizing the 2004 Athens Olympics, Greece lost the 2013 Mediterranean Games hosting rights on Friday after seeking to slash the budget due to its acute financial troubles.
The decision by the International Committee of Mediterranean Games, or CIJM, in Paris was because of Greece's bid to cut the "extravagant" cost of the event by two thirds, the Greece Culture Ministry said in a statement.
A new host was not named, and the CIJM issued no official announcement on the decision.
The 2013 Games were due to be held in the central towns of Volos and Larissa.
Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said the initial budget would have wasted money "on a big, spendthrift party."
"There are much better things we could spend that money on in the current situation," he said.
Debt-ridden Greece avoided bankruptcy last year after securing (EURO)110 billion ($150 billion) in international rescue loans through mid-2013. In return, it took deeply unpopular austerity measures, slashing pensions and salaries while hiking taxes and retirement ages.
"From the very beginning, the government had made clear that it would guarantee an excellent hosting of the games with a considerably reduced budget ... specifying that there was no leeway for frivolous spending," the ministry statement said.
The ministry said the games had an initial budget of (EURO)358 million ($490 million), and this month Athens proposed slashing the cost to (EURO)126 million ($175 million), citing economic hardship.
"This was a responsible proposal, given the country's financial difficulties," the statement said.
Hobbled by years of government overspending and a runaway public debt, Greece was still suffering a hangover from the 2004 Olympics, which cost nearly $11 billion by current exchange rates _ twice the initial budget, and with an additional security tab of more than $1.2 billion.
More than half of Athens' purpose-built Olympic sites, including a massive artificial canoe and kayak course, are barely used or empty, as plans for post-Olympic use were later ignored.
The Volos-Larissa 2013 organizing committee said it received no official communication from the CIJM on losing its hosting rights.
"But following today's press reports ... we are convening a board meeting to determine our next moves," an organizing committee statement said.
Volos Mayor Costas Skoteiniotis blamed the setback on government procrastination.
"There is an issue of serious political responsibility for ... the time that was inexplicably lost since we undertook to host the games," he said.
Last hosted in Pescara, Italy, the Mediterranean Games started in 1951 and are held every four years. They include athletics, swimming, cycling, weightlifting and shooting events.


Updated : 2021-03-08 07:21 GMT+08:00