Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (R) attends a ceremony marking the start of construction works at the "Hellinikon" airport, in Athens, Greece, on July 3, 2020. Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the start of construction works at Athens' former airport "Hellinikon" on Friday under an emblematic redevelopment project as the "beginning of a new era" for Greece. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
ATHENS, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the start of construction works at Athens' former airport "Hellinikon" on Friday under an emblematic redevelopment project as the "beginning of a new era" for Greece.
"Today is a very important day, a symbolic day. By demolishing the old useless buildings of the old airport, we are laying the foundations for the new Hellinikon. One of the largest, perhaps the largest project in the Mediterranean, will be realized in this area which had been abandoned for 19 years," he said during a launch ceremony broadcast on Greek national broadcaster ERT.
"It is the largest coastal park in the Mediterranean (250 hectares), but at the same time, this site will become a growth lever. In its full operation, Hellinikon will create more than 80,000 jobs, 10,000 jobs will be created only during the construction phase," he said.
The 8-billion-euro (9-billion-U.S.-dollar) project foresees the construction of residential communities, hotels, shopping centers, entertainment venues, museums, health and wellness centers, a modern business park and a casino, as well as the redevelopment of the existing marina and the coastal front across a large part of southern Athens.
A Metropolitan park is also expected to be one of the major attractions of the site.
The project will be realized by a Greek company following an international tender held as Greece was hit hard by a debt crisis. The major investment was part of the agreements Athens made with its bailout lenders.
The country exited the bailout era (2010-2018) but continues on the path of reform and reconstruction.
According to a survey by the Athens-based Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, the project will boost Greek gross domestic product (GDP) by some 1.5 percent over the next two decades. The former airport closed in 2001 ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. A few of the buildings were used as venues for the 2004 Games.
Bulldozers have now started demolishing a few of the 900 derelict buildings on the site.
Addressing the event on Friday, the prime minister said that it will most likely take a decade before the project is completed. (1 euro= 1.12 U.S. dollars)