aw-attiki_odos111   Mega sporting events have become an urbanization trend that affects the urban equilibrium and the sustainability of their economies, especially considering their impacts and complexity in organization and delivery. By reviewing the literature on the features of such events and, drawing particular examples from the recent Olympic Games in Athens 20014, we can identify the nature and extent of their impacts on the host country and its community. The former can range from political, social, economical, physical and cultural and can be negative as well as positive. Even though the prospect of economic growth is the driving force behind bids for hosting the Olympic Games or other Mega sporting events, the legacies that follow their hosting are difficult to quantify, prone to political interpretation and multifaceted. In recent years, the Olympic Games have developed into one of the most significant mega-international sporting events. The increasing number of cities bidding to host the Olympics and the increasing funds invested in Olympic bids indicate that local leaders perceive the securing of such an event as an opportunity to improve economic and social aspects of a city or region through the accumulated investment triggered by staging the Games. As a result, in the course of the past two decades there has been increased interest on the impact of the Olympics on the socio-economic and political life of the host city, region and country. The Olympic Games are therefore examined in relation to other mega-sporting events, such as the football World Cup and world championships but also in relation to commercial and cultural events, such as Expos and festivals, since it has been claimed that regardless of their character, events such as the aforementioned generate similar dynamics for the host cities or regions. Mega events are defined as events of spatial, temporal and thematic concentration of city policy with regards to one marketing project and can be cultural (Expo, Shanghai 2010), political (World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002) or sporting (Olympic Games, Athens 2004). They are large-scale competitions, which have a great appeal, bring a broad interest and ensure international significance to the hosting cities and countries. The motivations of hosting such events, beyond the significant economic investments, are image- building driven. Most cities use these events as an instrument of image-building, in the context of competition among them, in order to position themselves as global cities, or even more as global economies. In such a way, they transport an image of an “event-city” (Bittner, 2001) and in some cases, such as in the case of cities in the Global South, they intend to symbolize their way out of the underdeveloped category (FIFA World Cup, Brazil 2014), regardless of the numerous threats that come along with hosting such events. Other motivations that are usually considered when hosting mega events are the opportunities of legitimizing several urban policies. Local politics concentrate on the development of short-term projects, which displays a development dynamic and delivery competency to citizens. In that manner, they seek to legitimize in the long run the intended planning politics. However, the threats of hosting mega events, such as the Olympic Games, are several and multifaceted and in most cases they disturb the socioeconomic sustainability not only in a local scale, but also in a global one. In most cases, organizing such events triggers a downward spiral, as in general costs exceed benefits; “providing festivals when people need bread is a dubious use of public resources” (Andranovich et al 2001). The economic growth and investments as well as new job opportunities, are to a great extend temporary. Moreover, mega events are the cause of many evictions and relocations (e.g. Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004, London 2012), in order to show a slum free image to the world. Thus, mega events reinforce numerous socioeconomic inequalities, such as fragmentation, exclusion of specific communities, informalities and precarious housing. In addition to this, investing in politics of big events, leads to selective implementation of short-term urban projects that lack appropriate speculation and coordination. As a result, the new host city developments and infrastructures are related to the visitor class, due to time pressure which results in prioritization of projects for image-building rather than for citizens. All in all, the phenomenon of “Disneyfication of cities” (Roost, 2000) is vastly witnessed, as the urban policies are being “festivalized”; public space is eliminated due to the fact that urban design is being subject to consumption and leisure. attiki_odos_5 The Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, was not a different case. From the late 1990s until 2010, Athens was completely transformed from an economic, as well as an urban point of view. “Olympic Athens” was the result of the Olympic projects along with other massive infrastructural projects that took place in the same period. The major projects that were realized during those years; the new Venizelos Athens International Airport by Hochtief Construction Company, the new 65 km Attiki Odos toll highway, the new Metrolines and a new Tram line, the new archaeological park which joined the dispersed major archaeological sites of Attica, various sports venues along with the Olumpic Park landmark by Santiago Calatrava, transformed Athens into a modern, diffused metrolopitan area. Apart from the sports venues, other new large scale objects of consumption and culture appeared in the periphery of the Olympic infrastructures- several shopping malls, the new Benaki Museum and the new Acropolis Museum by Bernard Tschumi. The high employment rates that followed the former construction projects, together with the banners, urban art installations and happenings heralding the unique event generated an atmosphere of optimism in which citizens intermingled in a new spirit of communality. This served to cover the problems and tensions arising from an increasing and uncontrolled influx of immigrants, which made the Athenian identity more obscure than ever before. Olympic Athens marked the beginning of a new diffused urban landscape in Athens and the wider Attica region. Large scale interventions and ruptures in the form of a new dense network infrastructure were superimposed on the homogeneous, ever-expanding layer of the Athenian polykatoikias. This was an initial step towards an infrastructural city, one based on networks and not on architecture and urban design. The new mobility provided by the various networks and the easy credit offered by the banks that operated within a growing and rather uncontrolled economy, quickly led to the development of a consumer culture. In the years following the Olympic Games of 2004, new, ever-larger places of consumption sprang up on large plots of relatively cheap land along or near the networks on the edge of the city, or along the city-center axes linking Athens to the sea, replacing the small to medium scale neighborhood retail and leisure businesses. During the post-Olympic years, the state’s interest in the public spaces inherited from the Games quickly faded. The vast Olympic Park, the Hellenikon site and the Faliron Waterfront zone, are particularly inaccessible and abandoned; city center public spaces shared the same fate. The neglect was compounded by the rapid and uncontrolled influx of illegal immigrants, which smuggled across Greece’s extensive coastline, a border practically impossible to police. The immigrant population landed straight onto the city’s squares and streets, making these spaces increasingly dirty and rough, places of peddling, homelessness, drug-dealing and prostitution. Thus, public space was eliminated and extensively interiorized in the private retail buildings that were dispersed in the Attica region. Athens-2011-007 110   Resizer10-years-since-athens-olympics-4-thumb-large The new consumerist culture which was established by the easy bank loans during that period, seemed untouched by the ominous signs regarding the future of the global economy sent by the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in the fall of 2008. A year later, however, the revealing of the Greek debt crisis signaled the burst of the Greek economy bubble and led to the country’s affiliation to the EU-IMF rescue mechanism. The rapid deterioration of all financial data, especially the dramatic rise of unemployment and the shrinking of the population’s consumption capacity, as well as the state’s continuing inability to control the unceasing  immigration influx, accelerated the decline of city center public space and led to a sharp increase of crime and petty crime , while the repeated demonstrations against the applied austerity measures led to recurring clashes with the police  and the severe destruction of buildings and public spaces. In this new landscape of economic recession, the new city, a hybrid of the modernist Athens and the post-Olympic heterogeneous infrastructural city based on  the recent mobility networks, the phenomena of   fragmentation, spatial segregation and socioeconomic inequalities among the Athenian citizens, extend beyond all imagination, especially compared to the expectations that were cultivated during the Olympic Games period.