It was billed as a chance to transform Greece's image and boost growth but 10 years after the country hosted the world's greatest sporting extravaganza there is little to celebrate at the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.
For Greeks who swelled with pride at the time, the 2004 Olympics are now a source of anger as the country struggles through a six-year depression, record unemployment, homelessness and poverty.
24 Jul 2014. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis
Many of the once-gleaming Olympic venues which crackled with activity have been abandoned while others are used occasionally for non-sporting events such as conferences and weddings.
At the former Olympic Rowing Centre, pictured above, youths still train in the water but stray dogs also play among the overgrown weeds.
16 Jul 2014. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis
Across the city, the former canoe and kayak venue has dried up, and entire banks of spectators' seats have been ripped out.
Just days before the anniversary of the Aug. 13-29 Games in 2004, and as Brazil gears up for the 2016 Rio Olympics, many question how Greece, among the smallest countries to ever host the Games, has benefited from the multi-billion dollar event.
27 Jul 2014. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
After failing in a bid to host the centennial Olympics in 1996, Greece, founder of the ancient and modern Olympics, was awarded the 2004 Games after defeating favourites Rome.
The decision was greeted with joy, but once the initial euphoria faded Athens wasted the first three years of its seven-year preparation period, only to be given a warning by the IOC in 2000 to drastically step up its organisation efforts or risk losing the Games.
The country then embarked on a construction frenzy to complete projects like the refurbishment of the Velodrome, pictured above.
In total the Games cost Greece an estimated $11 billion - double initial projections.
25 Jul 2014. Thrakomakedones, Greece. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A chair stands in a deserted swimming pool - a sorry site at the former Olympic Village north of Athens.
But for supporters of the Games Greece's failure is not in how much they cost or the state of the venues today. After all, not all are in dire condition - the Olympic Broadcast Centre is a bustling mall, the badminton venue is a theatre and venues at the site of the former Athens airport have been sold.
Rather, they complain that subsequent governments failed to capitalise on the Olympic legacy and use it to boost tourism in the country, its biggest industry. Just a year after the Olympics, hotels built for spectators closed down.
17 Jul 2014. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis
Greece's Hellenic Olympic Committee denies accusations that costs to host the Games contributed to Greece's debt crisis that exploded in 2009 and forced it to seek two bailouts worth 240 billion euros (190 billion pounds) from the EU and IMF.
"They cost 8.5 billion euros. Was the 8 billion to blame when Greece owed 360 billion?" Hellenic Olympic Committee head Spyros Kapralos said.
"If you put it on a scale, the positives outweigh the negatives but unfortunately we weren't able to communicate that," the former water polo player told Reuters. "The face of the city changed."