athens_280The stadiums and parks of the Athens Olympics of 2004, built at a cost of $15 billion, remain largely disused. The significance of these white elephants is made starker by Greece’s huge national debt and recent social unrest in response to national austerity measures. Six million of Greece’s 11 million citizens live in Athens, yet the government and the Olympic committee have had little success in increasing sports participation or commercial interest.

Like modern day ruins, these scenes lack the historical conflict or political upheaval associated with the usual catalogue of abandonment. Instead they describe the products of international institutional pressure and a catastrophic failure in foresight, exasperated by the willingness to borrow money without future proofing its investment. In the birth place of modern civilisation, these Athenian relics join the ancient hilltop ruins as testament to inevitable social change and our blindness to potential adaptability.

Olympic games construction highlights our continued trend of public borrowing for structures that have limited shelf lives. These developments come at a huge cost of limited natural resources, requiring energy consumption that far defies the technological progress we’ve discovered. In an age of sovereign debt crisis, these burdens of peer-pressured national pride are testament to a continued failure to comprehend inevitable entropic social change, much like factory shells of defunct industrialised cities. We need to consider the possibility that all human construction in the future could have functionally adaptable architecture.

Jamie McGregor Smith

This work will be exhibited at Print House Gallery, Dalston from 7 September – 3 October 2012.