The Washington Post — At the height of Greece’s financial crisis, many people noted that the country had relatively recently spent millions building lavish stadiums for the 2004 Olympic Games. Many of these stadiums have since sat forlorn and empty — an unwelcome reminder of the hubris of the boom years.
Now, some of these empty stadiums will finally be used again, but, in a sign of the times, not for sports.
Instead, they will house refugees and migrants.
Greek authorities reopened the Galatsi Olympic Hall on Thursday in a bid to accommodate some of the people who have arrived in the country recently. According to the Associated Press, about 500 people, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, were bused to the stadium from Athen’s central Victoria Square.
Hundreds of refugees had been camping in and around the square in recent days, prompting anger among some locals. “I want to reassure residents… Victoria Square will be cleared,” Yiannis Mouzalas, a junior interior minister in charge of migration, was reported as saying by Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
The Galatsi Olympic Hall had been used for table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics in 2004. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was built at a cost of $61 million, but post-Olympic plans to turn the building into a venue for entertainment never came to fruition. The venue is just one of several that have remained unused in recent years, and Greek authorities are said to be considering whether more could be opened to accommodate refugees.
Greece has become a key spot on the route to Western Europe for many refugees and migrants. Recent data from the International Office for Migration suggests that more than 218,000 people arrived in Greece between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2015.