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Beleaguered Greek sports surviving on 'crumbs'

By Graham Wood

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's beleaguered Olympic sports federations are struggling for their very existence following a new round of cuts in state funding despite several new emergency measures announced on Friday.

Funding received by most disciplines has been halved in the government's proposals for the 2014 budget compared with last year, causing uproar among the federations who are already only able to afford basic operating costs just 10 years on from the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) president Spyros Capralos held an emergency meeting with the presidents of several federations, sports minister Giannis Adrianos and general secretary for sport Kyriaki Giannakidou on Friday.

After five hours of talks it was revealed that federations would benefit from, among other things, free usage of state-owned venues for training and the staging of national competitions. The state also pledged to cover the costs of doping controls.

"While the government showed the willingness to listen to everyone, something which is very positive, in reality the situation regarding the budgets for 2014 has not changed and yes it would be fair to say that at the moment we are being asked to survive on these crumbs," Cycling federation president Athanasios Terzis told Reuters.

"This is by far the worst era in the history of Greek sport. There have been year-on-year blanket cuts and 90 percent of our revenue goes on basic costs like tax and social security payments.

"It is a dramatically disastrous situation."

The Greek athletics federation (SEGAS) revealed that its budget has been cut by 48 percent compared with 2013 and by 70 percent compared with 2012.

"(The government) is completely deleting sport from its list of priorities," SEGAS said in a statement.

There was more disheartening news with Greek rower Stergos Papachristou announcing that he was quitting the sport at just 28 due to financial difficulties.

"I took the decision two months ago. I simply can't go on," he told Greek radio station SportFM.

"Things are just going from bad to worse. I see that in Greece people with brains, whether they are students or lawyers , are all trying just like athletes their country throws that effort back in their face and they move abroad.

"Until I was 25 I was living off my parents and I told myself ‘something will change, live your dream'. Eventually, however, the romance ends and you are left hanging. Those athletes who are over 25 years and continue either have a job or have a family to support them."

Papachristou's decision came a year after twins Nikos and Apostolos Gountoulas, four-times European rowing champions and ninth at the 2012 London Olympics, decided to no longer compete for Greece because of funding problems.

(Editing by Ed Osmond) nL3N0MB4HL

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