I often think about the economic situation Greece currently is going through and how so many people are struggling to get by. So what’s new? Internal and external forces have been exploiting Greece’s resources for thousands of years. Doesn’t anyone think it’s time for Greece to get tough, fight back and once again have a strong economy? Can Greece use its resources to dig itself out of debt? As I think about the problem, I keep going back to all of the museums and private collectors that are holding onto billions possibly trillions of dollars worth of ancient Greek artifacts and antiquities.
This subject has been a hot topic for a while with other countries also looking to have their national treasures returned. The efforts of China, Italy and Egypt have helped bring much needed attention to the problem but apparently not much has changed. What I’m proposing is not to have all the items sent back to Greece, at least not just yet. The larger more important goal is to receive lease payments for everything from the smallest shard of pottery to the Elgin marbles. Possibly even backdating payments for some of the most controversial and historically significant items. As much as I’d like to see the antiquities returned, the reason the items shouldn’t be returned immediately is because Greece does not have the money to properly take care of or showcase them. Things are so bad they are reburying recently discovered antiquities to keep them safe. I’m sure such a revenue stream would put a huge dent in the national debt if not eliminate it completely.
Also, the London Olympic games are less than 100 days away. This got me thinking, why not hold the summer Olympics only and always in Greece? Again, the Olympics are Greek intellectual property and Athens has already built all of the necessary facilities and stadiums. Every quadrennium the games generate billions of dollars in revenue from broadcast partnerships, sponsorships, ticketing and licensing. Other than being the first nation to walk during the opening ceremony and the playing of the Greek national anthem, does Greece receive any money from the IOC? Yeah, I know the games are supposed to bring the world together but the problem is that the Olympics do more harm to the host city than good. For example, Montreal’s 1976 Olympics left the city with $2.7 billion of debt that it finally paid off in 2005. Meanwhile, when Athens won the right to host the 2004 games in 1997, its budget was $1.6 billion. The final public cost is estimated to be around $16 billion — 10 times the original budget!
Hosting the Olympics is a catastrophic loss because the huge cost of the games mostly comes from the construction of all the necessary stadiums and facilities. The three weeks of activities plus the one-week of Special Olympics never end up covering these expenses. However, if the games were to be held in the same city every four years, in this case Athens, the financial return might be worth all the effort. This approach would allow Athens to build a sustainable and profitable economy around the Olympics. The Olympic brand would become associated with Greece, its people and Athens’s identity. Imagine Greece becoming the global center for athletics and sport! The climate and natural resources are perfect. People from around the world could come to Greece to train, learn and meet other athletes. I’m getting excited thinking about all of the possibilities and opportunities this could create!
In this posting I’ve managed to barely scratch the surface regarding these two topics and I’ve made some broad generalizations. The point is to inspire ideas and start a healthy debate. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. I’m looking forward to hearing about how Greece could leverage what I call its “intellectual property”.