Athens transformed

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In Athens: An Olympian Metamorphosis, New York Times writer Michael Mewshaw visits the capital city and looks at it's transformation in the runup to the 2004 summer Olympics.

In the past, whatever Athens's shortcomings, it remained resolutely Greek. Now, critics claim, it's becoming just another European city, with a McDonald's across from Parliament and designer boutiques surrounding the 11th-century church of Kapnikarea. The celebrated Cafe Zonars, for a century a hangout for writers and intellectuals, recently shut down to make way for a mall; streets are clotted with S.U.V.'s; sushi and feng shui knickknacks have put in implausible appearances; and men have quit letting their pinkie fingernails grow long to prove that they're city folks, not country people who work with their hands.

All wrong! Athens's defenders argue. Such faultfinding is simple-minded Zorba-ism, a mindless misreading of reality. With a boost from the Olympics, Athens is becoming a fusion city, a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. When the Games begin this August in front of tens of thousands of visitors and millions of television viewers, Greece will showcase its entrepreneurial spirit, contemporary arts and surprising culinary sophistication.

When Mewshaw asks about the city's notorious pollution and blistering heat one Athenian offers this piece of irrefutable Greek logic.

When I asked a Greek how people would weather the heat and nefos this summer, he laughed and said the athletes are already polluted with pills and performance-enhancing drugs. ''A few exhaust fumes shouldn't hurt them.''

Posted on March 9, 2004 in Athens, Modern Life | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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