(CNN) — After months of shutdown, Athens International Airport is gearing up to “welcome the world” yet again as Greece moves ahead with plans to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions in a bid to revive its key tourism industry.
But while authorities hope the phased return associated with international journey from June 15 may eventually take the arrival halls of the Eleftherios Venizelos center roaring back again to existence, a few kms to the particular west, one more airport will stay eerily peaceful — because it has regarding much of the final 20 many years.
Located within the southern Athenian coast on the site approximately three times the dimensions of Monaco, Hellenikon — which usually translates to “the Greek” — was for many years the only global airport within Athens.
The former airport complex was originally built-in the past due 1930s each time when Greek aviation was still inside a nascent phase. During the particular World War II job of Greece by Axis powers, the website was utilized by Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe plus became the target associated with Allied atmosphere raids.
The airport was as soon as Greece’s biggest.
Following the end from the war, Hellenikon hosted Greek, US plus British causes but with the 1950s this had turn out to be Athens’s primary hub regarding commercial flights. Significant renovation work adopted, including extended runways along with a new manage tower plus terminal halls.
With Greece’s tourism market rapidly growing, Hellenikon offered as the entrance for lots of people arriving through all sides of the world to discover the nation’s archaeological marvels and sun-baked beaches.
Time took the toll, however, and on March 30, 2001 — right after years of arguments and preparing — Hellenikon shut the doors consistently to create way for a bigger, more modern service.
Hellenikon close its doorways in 2001.
“In the 1990s, the airport had wound up handling properly above 10 million people [annually],” Vasilis Tsatsaragkos, president from the Olympic Airlines Workers’ Cultural Center, informs CNN.
“Hellenikon was unable to meet the country’s dynamically increasing tourism needs.”
In 2004, areas of the disused complex had been transformed into locations for the Athens Olympics, web hosting baseball, secure fencing, kayaking along with other sporting events.
But years of overlook followed as well as the 1,530-acre brownfield web site — as soon as envisaged mostly as a city park — was left to corrosion amid arguments over the redevelopment plus Greece’s ancestry into financial chaos within the wake from the 2008 economic crisis.
The airport nevertheless contains forgotten airplanes that belong to defunct carrier Olympic Airways.
In 2014, a range of traders signed the €915 million ($1 billion) advancement deal, a vital part of the post-bailout contract between debt-saddled Greece as well as international loan companies.
Under the offer, Hellenikon will be to end up being turned into certainly one of Europe’s biggest coastal accommodations, filled with best hotels in vegas and flats, as well as departmental stores, a recreation area and an online casino and amusement complex.
Efforts, however, to kick-start the particular project have got repeatedly stalled amid politics opposition plus various bureaucratic obstacles. More than 4 years ago, on the height associated with Europe’s asylum crisis, the particular sprawling web site became a casual settlement sheltering thousands of political refugees living in harrowing conditions, the abandoned ports and Olympic facilities stuffed by an ocean of tents.
Over days gone by year, Greece’s conservative federal government has pledged to accelerate regulatory methods so that the long- delayed redevelopment project could get off the ground, and several preliminary function is anticipated to start in the arriving weeks.
Frozen in time
Since its drawing a line under, it’s been permitted to fall into downfall.
Some of its outlined buildings that will be conserved from demolition include the previous East Terminal building, developed in the 1960s by the company of innovative Finnish-American builder Eero Saarinen in the 1960s.
Currently, a feeling of emptiness spreads throughout its dilapidated, cavernous corridor at walk out. A short stroll downstairs goes to exactly what once was a busy lounge region, now jumbled with particles from half-ruined walls along with a collapsed roof that unearths bungles associated with twisted cables hanging over head.
Elsewhere, the jumble associated with trash, damaged glass plus discarded report books shows the challenging scale associated with decay, whilst faded travel and leisure posters plus torn roadmaps add a take note of gloom to the particular scene.
Outside the falling apart structures, a little fleet associated with decommissioned Boeing aircraft, which includes an impacting 747-200 together with a Boeing 737 plus Boeing 727, sit nonproductive on the advantage of the complicated.
The corroding, stripped-down traveler jets almost all belonged to Olympic Airways (OA), the particular carrier that for decades dominated Greece’s air and grew to become synonymous along with Hellenikon.
When OA dominated the skies
Olympc Airways as soon as had unique access to Hellenikon’s West Terminal.
Launched simply by business magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1957 following a with Greece’s government for your exclusive usage of air transportation, OA quickly expanded the fleet plus helped place the country within the global visitor map.
“This was the airline that connected Greece with the whole world — within 23 hours, Athens had ‘contact’ with five continents,” Tsatsaragkos states.
OA rapidly became reputed for its second-to-none luxury log cabin service, highlighting the magnificent style of the Greek originator and one from the world’s richest men. Its flight family and friends were dressed up in chic outfits created by well-known designers for example Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin whilst its people famously liked their foods on porcelain plates along with gilded utensils and amazingly glasses.
Following the 1969 opening from the Saarinen-designed East Terminal, which usually served almost all foreign companies, Hellenikon’s West Terminal was exclusively set aside for OA. Through the gates, a stable stream associated with celebrities — from Elizabeth Taylor plus Sophia Loren to Omar Sharif plus Neil Armstrong — was pictured being released on the in Greece.
Mementoes through Hellenikon’s previous will be conserved in a brand new museum, in accordance to Vasilis Tsatsaragkos.
But within 1973, the particular death associated with Onassis’ 24-year-old son, Alexander, in the accident of a two-engined amphibian Piaggio jet soon after take off through Hellenikon stunned Greece as well as the Onassis loved ones, and eventually led to the end associated with OA’s “golden age”.
On January 1, 1975, Onassis officially sold the organization to the particular Greek condition and passed away on March 15.
In its 1st 18 many years, OA’s navy had improved from 15 to 28 — such as the technological wonder of the time, the Boeing 747-200B Jumbo purchased in 1973 for the Athens-New York path — however the national service provider went on to face main financial difficulties in the years that adopted due to chronic mismanagement.
Having already been renamed Olympic Airlines within 2003, the particular carrier stopped operations within 2009, a long period after the relocation — along with the associated with Greece’s modern aviation industry — from its previous home in Hellenikon.
But the storage of both abandoned airport and OA will survive in a brand new museum that will be located in an reserved building in the redeveloped web site, according to Tsatsaragkos.
“We have collected 23,000 items documenting the history of both OA and civil aviation,” he says, incorporating that 7 aircraft is going to be among the long term exhibits.
“We keep gathering material. This museum is our big vision.”