The potentially negative legacy of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games has been in the news since before the games even started, as commentators doubted the ability of the government to ensure the completion of the requisite stadia and the security of the athletes and spectators. However, many Athenians will point to many long-lasting positive outcomes from their city’s hosting of the games, including a new subway system, a new airport, and a huge boost in tourist visits in the years following the games. Of course, most of the tourists come to Greece to relax on the nation’s beaches or to see the many ruins that dot the countryside. Now, in addition to the Acropolis, visitors to Athens can see the ‘ruins’ of the Olympic Park.
British photographer Jamie McGregor Smith wanted to capture these 21st century ruins with his series, Borrow Build Abandon—Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel, on view at the Print House Gallery in Dalston from September 7th to October 3rd. The series shows the various venues of the Athens 2004 Games in states of neglect and disrepair, with grasses growing from seats and graffiti lining processional walkways. Smith was able to shoot these photographs by sneaking into the venues, something he says was not hard to do. “I actually walked straight into the empty Olympic Stadium, explored, shot and left without anyone asking me any questions. Turns out the Athenians are pretty laid back on the whole!”
The series is a striking testament to Greece’s current economic climate—perhaps the venues would be easier to maintain in less troubled times. Smith succeeds in evoking the aftermath of a recession still embroiling the world over four years after its inception, but without any of the problematic or judgemental symbolism that marks similar efforts; he shows what is.