Revisiting the Athens Olympic dream with refugee children

When I last walked up the steps of the Olympic stadiums in summer 2004, they were buzzing with crowds and we were greeted by smiling volunteers. The old airport had already been replaced by a state of the art one, that symbolized a new era. Today, both sites were hosting dashed dreams, particularly since the closure of European borders.

But within the uncertainty, tensions and emotions flying high, I was impressed with the camp co-ordinators, the structures they were trying to put in place, whilst forming the first links between communities and the state. One aptly described the model, as “safety and meeting basic needs first; the Save the Children container will arrive tomorrow for children’s activities; then the first attempts through volunteers for an embryonic kindergarten and primary school”.

The next step on the spectrum of psychosocial support is already taking shape through the Children SOS Village team in the relatively stable camp of Eleonas. And a visit to a local council for contribution through the new NGO Ergo will possibly lead to general youth  awareness seminars and games on acceptance and diversity. Within the noise and chaos, these are promising components, even if still hit-and-miss.

In the meanwhile, time is painfully slow, as temperatures rise within all the camps. Cheering Olympic fans have been replaced by young men and women staring endlessly in

to space…


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