This photographic project explores the legacy of the 2004 Athens Olympics; eight years after the games came to a close. Only three of the Olympic stadiums, built at a cost of $15bn, are currently in public use, the remaining requiring an annual $100m in upkeep costs.
The significance of this desertion is exemplified by the country’s huge national debt (one of the highest in Europe) and highlighted by its recent social unrest against national austerity measures, which include a 30% cut in annual sports funding. Greece has a population of 11 million, six million of which live in its capital Athens. However, due to the local popularity of football and basketball, the government and International Olympic Committee has had little success in attracting residence from other sports.
Lessons on Olympic legacy, highlighted by the Barcelona and Sydney Games, were shadowed in Greece’s case by pressures of completion and a delayed three year construction timeline. Caused by political intervention and government elections, this rush for completion allowed little thought for post-games usage and trebled its construction budget.
Olympic construction highlights the continued trend of public borrowing for structures that have limited shelf life. They come at a huge cost to limited natural resources, requiring energy consumption and carbon emissions that defy the intelligence and understanding we’ve been fortunate enough to develop.
In the years of sovereign debt crisis, these white elephants of peer pressured national pride, much like the factory shells in defunct industrialised cities, are testament to humanity’s continued failure to comprehend inevitable entropic social change. We need to consider the possibility that all human construction in the future could have the technology of functional adaptation.
This project’s topographic photographic approach attempts to be objective enough for viewers to summarise their own emotional response to these landscapes. Shot over a week in Athens Olympic parks, it acts as a document of contemporary reportage.
This work hopes to achieve an appreciation of aesthetic architectural qualities, in cohesion with the contextual relationship to the societies they were constructed for and by. In the case of their abandonment, the effect of their powerful presence on our human landscape, exaggerates the sense failure, in the context of their functional disestablishment.
Jamie McGregor Smith grew up in Kent and began his photographic studies while at school, finding early inspiration for his work in the redundant Cornish mines discovered on family summer excursions. Smith studied photography at Staffordshire University in the Midlands and graduated in 2006, before moving to London in 2007 to begin his professional training with advertising photographers. It was during his studies in Stafford that he learnt of William Jenkins’ New Topographic movement and began his own contemporary documentary records of the defunct industries that were such an integral part of the economy in the area. These same themes of beauty in the banal and industrial landscape in flux can be seen in his recent work, from his documentation of the collapse of the motor industry in Detroit to the shifting industrial landscapes of the north east of England and more modern urban landscapes. Smith continues to live and practice in London, working on professional and editorial comm