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Olympic Flames Burn Out For Greek Athletes

The Olympic torch will be lit in Greece later in a spectacular ceremony, but the country’s economic troubles have led to a chronic funding crisis for its athletes.
Greece is expected to field just 75 athletes at this summer’s Games, less than half the team they sent to Beijing and a sixth of the team representing Greece in Athens 2004.
Due to financial constraints, the Greek Athletics Federation has been forced to indefinitely suspend all domestic competitions. Athletes have to leave the country to train and compete but many can not afford to do so.
Kostas Filippidis is an Olympic pole vaulter, perhaps good enough to get a medal if he could get the right training. “The government gives me nothing. I have to ask family and friends to help me out,” he said. He trains in what was an Athens 2004 Olympics showcase facility.
However, eight years of neglect have taken their toll and the roof now has massive holes. Greece’s top athletes have been forced to create funnels to direct rain water into huge vats.
Kostas told Sky News: “In the winter there was no heating, no hot water for a bath; when it rained water was flooding the floor. It was dangerous. It could cause an injury.
“We have been forgotten and we are the nation who gave the world the Olympics. We should hold it in our hearts, but the politicians don’t respect us.”
Dimitris Kyteas, the national pole vaulting coach, has seen his salary slashed by 30%. He is unable to even get the 1,000 euro needed to replace his threadbare crash mat cover. His athletes train in the shadow of the 2004 Olympic stadium, but he says the Greek games were a mistake.
“They asked me and I told them it was a political mistake. Where did the money go? It went into people’s pockets. We got nothing. What about the athletes? Where are the athletes now? What we are doing is important, but nobody cares,” he said.
He pointed to a weed-infested sandpit. “Look at the long jump…a garden.”
Greece had pledged 30 million euros to this Olympic cycle but the National Olympic Committee has not received any funding in the last two years, meaning some teams had to be assisted by the International Olympic Committee in order to get funds to attend qualifying events.
The Greek Olympic Team are just more victims of the economic and political crisis which has consumed the country.
The Olympic legacy was swallowed into the same hole as Greece’s other borrowings and investments. As a result, the Olympic flame burns less brightly for the ancient nation who gave it to the world.
(source: Sky News, 964eagle)

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