Everybody knows that the Olympic Games are due to be held in Athens in 2004. Apart from the accepted consequences, positive and negative, for the city of Athens and Greece in general this sporting extravaganza will seriously affect the yachting fraternity from mid-July to mid-September.
Two major crises will afflict the greater Athens area i.e. transportation and accommodation. I will refer to certain aspects of transportation later but the accommodation problem will directly affect yachtsmen. How, you might ask ? I will tell you.
The Greek government is trying many ways to obviate the shortage of about 40,000 rooms. Athenians are being asked to offer rooms to visitors in their own homes and 11 cruise ships are being chartered and moored in Piraeus harbour for the duration of the Games. Not wishing to be left out of this possible bonanza, yacht owners will be offering their yachts as floating hotels in all the marinas along the Athens coastline, particularly Marina Alimos. Nor will this be restricted to Athenian yacht owners, as owners from all over Greece will be climbing on the bandwagon and will be moving their yachts into the Athens area for the Games. Many yachts are already booked to regular charterers and thus the prices for the period will go up to alarming levels, not to mention the shortage of available yachts.
Another serious problem will be the human waste from all these vessels. Piraeus harbour and all the marinas in the vicinity will become enormous sewage dumps. The people chartering these yachts as hotels are not yachties and will not know, or care, about the use of holding tanks and will simply dump the results of the exercising of normal human bodily functions into the sea. The shore facilities in these marinas will be nine times overstretched.
I promised to refer to transportation again because there will be massive shortages of flights over the period. Don't miss the boat - book early your flight aswell.
You must also realise that the influx of yachts into Athens will produce shortages all over Greece, not only for the period from mid-July to mid-September, but beyond because of the positioning and re-positioning times of the floating hotels.
My advice, therefore, is that if you are a yacht owner avoid Athens for the period, unless you are going to watch the Games, and if you are going to charter - DO IT EARLY, not forgetting to book your flights at the same time. The "last minute booking" syndrome is not going to work in 2004 for the crucial period of the Games and the immediate pre and post period - say 15 July to 15 September.
Finally - how early is early enough ? I would say by Christmas 2003, at the very latest. This way you will both enjoy the early booking discounts, which most of the charter companies are offering, and get the yacht of your choice from the base of your choice. Almi Yachts statistics are showing that by February all yachts will be booked for July/August 2004 and only dinghies will be available !
Alexander M. Vournas
Alex. Vournas is the owner and managing director of Almi Yachts ltd, a yacht charter company in Greece. He is also the web designer and SEO for www.almiyachts.com