The upside of the occupation of the Olympic baseball stadium in Greece by thousands of refugees is that the stadium is not an empty ruin.
The down side is that the baseball field and the stadium are full of people who’d rather not be there. They’d rather be home. For many of them, that’s Syria. As I understand it, they left because home was exploding all around them and people like them were dying in great numbers, whether or not they had taken sides in the war, which they might or might not understand.
In the pictures I’ve seen, lots of the refugees are smiling. Some of them are children who’ve been refugees for most of their lives. They may be smiling because they can’t remember living any place more comfortable than the tents set up in the baseball stadium.
The juxtaposition of “children” and “baseball stadium” shouldn’t feel like this.
When children attend their first big time baseball game with their parents or by sneaking past the security guard, they’re supposed to marvel at how green the grass is, even if they’ve seen that grass on TV. When they grow up, they all tell the same story about the first time they went to a big league game, and how green the grass was. Maybe they also remember who hit a home run that day, but for certain they remember how green the grass was.
In the photographs of the refugee camp that’s been set up in the baseball stadium in Greece, it’s impossible to tell if there is any grass. All the ground is covered by rows and rows of tents, which suggests that there isn’t any. In fact, it would be sort of miracle if there was any grass, wouldn’t it? There is dirt, and there is heat, and there are crowded conditions.
There are also some ramshackle playhouses and some creative decorations inside some of the tents, where some of the smiling children were photographed. The creative decorations and some of the more basic improvements in the camp have alarmed some of the residents. In a recent story, one of them suggested that although she welcomed the improvements in sanitation and the water supply for health reasons, she wondered if all the work put into the improvements meant that the expectation was that the refugees would be on that ball field for a long time.
In the aftermath of the Olympics in Greece, there were lots of sad stories about waste, corruption, and economic collapse.
Now we have a sadder story.
The field meant for games and covered with row after row of tents is bordered by a grandstand featuring row after row of seats. In the photographs I’ve seen, the seats are empty. I wonder if the photographer set up the shots that way to suggest that nobody is watching?