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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-08-02

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

August 2, 2004


  • [01] Athenians get first taste of Olympic measures
  • [02] City of Athens Olympic volunteers take to the streets Thursday
  • [03] Greece welcomes Cyprus measures to facilitate trade across the ceasefire line
  • [04] Olympic torch wends through the plains of Thessaly
  • [05] UK champion lauds Athens Olympics sailing venue
  • [06] Olympic ticket sales up
  • [07] Gov't to set up farm development centres
  • [08] Ferry bomb threat was a hoax
  • [09] EU Ambassador welcomes government measures

  • [01] Athenians get first taste of Olympic measures

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    Athenians on Sunday got their first taste of measures to ease congestion and boost security for the Athens 2004 Olympics, which begin on August 13.

    In place for the first time were restrictions on movement along major highways leading to Olympic venues, with buses, private vehicles, and event-accredited coaches, taxis and automobiles channelled into three separate lanes to facilitate movement for athletes, sports officials and media. Lane violators will be filmed on security cameras and charged 156 euros.

    Also taking effect were circulation and parking restrictions around Olympic venues and selected spots in the city centre; and at midnight an airspace control coordinating centre was due to begin monitoring the Athens flight region to ensure safety and security for flights, which are increasing ahead of the games.

    The control centre belonging to the Civil Aviation Authority and reporting to the ministries of transport, public order and defence will be run by specially-trained staff to monitor air traffic and provide immediate solutions if complications occur. Flights are expected to peak between August 9 and 13.

    On Monday, an expanded Olympics shopping schedule takes effect, with stores due to stay open between 0900 and 2100 hours this month, closing at 1800 hours on Saturdays. Banks in central Athens, tourist areas and near Olympic venues will stay open until 2000 hours; gasoline stations are authorised to serve customers on a 24-hour basis; and the city's new tram line and electric train network will operate throughout each night with all other means of public transport ceasing operations between 0200 and 0500 hours.

    Security measures to protect any potential targets of terrorist attack include a grid of Patriot missiles guarding Olympic venues; flight restrictions; an airbourne Zeppelin airship loaded with security cameras overflying Attica on a near-24 hour basis; NATO airbourne radar conducting surveillance of Greek airspace; Greek air force fighter jets patrolling the skies; and a crack NATO division stationed on Evia that is trained to handle biological and chemical warfare.

    The Athens international airport is also in a state of readiness in terms of security and measures to handle vastly increased air traffic, including more than 500 flights daily for 48 hours before the Olympic opening ceremony and the day of the closing event at the end of August. Tens of teams have already flown into Athens, but the bulk are expected to arrive next week.

    Also in a state of readiness are hospitals that have undertaken to treat athletes and vistors, although state ambulance workers have vowed to continue strikes if the government fails to award them an Olympic bonus, deliver overtime backpay and hire more staff.

    [02] City of Athens Olympic volunteers take to the streets Thursday

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    Olympic volunteers recruited by the City of Athens take to the streets on Thursday to help visitors to the capital find their way around.

    The roughly 3,000 volunteers who rallied to Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni under a campaign dubbed "Show them the Athens you love" have excellent knowledge of at least one foreign language, while 80 percent also speak another language.

    Sixty five percent of the total are female, while most are aged between 18 and 35, but there are exceptions, including a 77-year-old man who speaks seven languages. Other volunteers know sign language for the deaf; and more than 80 percent have reached tertiary education.

    Beyond Greeks, other nationalities are to work as volunteers, including Nigerians, Ethiopians, Chinese and Poles.

    The volunteers will staff 40 air-conditioned street booths and offer information about transportation to Olympic venues, tourist attractions, or Athens neighbourhoods off the beaten track, where to eat and find entertainment, and how to resolve any other problems.

    Armed with internet-connected mobile phones, some volunteers will staff the booths around the city from early in the morning until late at night at 40 points around Athens; and others will patrol the streets wearing jackets saying "City of Athens - May I help you".

    The City of Athens will also install 20 touch-screen information providers, which are to remain in place after the Olympics.

    The volunteers will also consult with experts on the Citizens Advice phone line on 195.

    Contributing to the programme is Athens-quoted Cosmote, a mobile phone operator and Olympic sponsor.

    [03] Greece welcomes Cyprus measures to facilitate trade across the ceasefire line

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    Greece on Sunday welcomed measures announced by the Cypriot government to boost growth for the island republic's two communities.

    "The new package of measures for growth of economic and trade ties between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots announced by the Cypriot government complements confidence-building measures already announced, to offer a sense of security and cooperation between the island's two communities," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said in a statement.

    "This is a further initiative by the Cypriot government, a new and concrete step towards endeavours to resolve the (political) problem and reunify the island," Koumoutsakos said.

    The measures also complied with requirements set by the United Nations and European Union, he noted.

    "The most important thing is that these measures will serve the EU's unswerving objective of reunification for Cyprus," he added.

    [04] Olympic torch wends through the plains of Thessaly

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    The Olympic flame traversed the deserted plains of Thessaly at the weekend, with the torchbearer tracked in the blistering heat by a cavalcade of cars.

    In residential areas, thousands of Thessalians lined city avenues and squares to cheer on the celebrities who had donned the torchbearer's uniform, including soccer star Christian Karembeu, model Adriana Sklenarikova, and athletes Kostas Thanos and Katerina Koffa.

    Volos was the last Olympic city to greet the torch on this leg, after Heraklio and Thessaloniki. Internationally renowned pianist Dimitris Sgouros gave a concert with the Volos Symphony Orchestra in honour of the Olympic flame.

    Two rowing eights bore the flame to the shores of the city, and the last torchbearer was Greek rower, Vasilis Polymeros, who is training intensively for the Olympics, which begin on August 13.

    It was evening when the flame halted at Larissa, to pass through the gateway of the ancient theatre, which is still being excavated.

    Earlier, at the bridge over the Pineios river, Christian Karembeu bore the torch aloft and ran the torchbearer's quota of metres, cheered by crowds of fans.

    "I was honoured when it was suggested to me that I should be a torchbearer, it was an inspiring thought", said the French defender. "Larissa is a historic city with a big tradition in sport".

    The procession also visited Karditsa, Kalambaka and Trikala.

    The flame left Volos for Stylida and will then go on to Lamia. An army helicopter will take it to Karpenisi, and then to to the northern Sporades - Skopelos and Skiathos - where it will remain for the night.

    [05] UK champion lauds Athens Olympics sailing venue

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    Ben Ainslie, double Olympic medallist for Britain, has praised the Aghios Kosmas sailing venue for the Athens 2004 Olympics, which begin on August 13.

    "The venue, contrary to most of the rumours, is very good. Everyone's very impressed with it - it's a very good base for us," said Ainslie, who won last year's test event in Athens.

    "The sailing waters will be very different this time. Without trying to be too technical, in terms of pure sailing it's probably a better venue than Sydney," he told BBC Sports in an interview.

    Britain won three sailing gold medals and two silvers in Sydney four years ago. Ainslie won a silver in Atlanta in 1996, and a gold in Sydney in 2000.

    The UK sailors were the first British team to arrive in Athens, nearly a month before the opening ceremony.

    "The only obvious problem is the heat - it's so hot even out in the water it can be stifling. The conditions will be trying but we've been sailing, doing world championships on those waters and it hasn't been a problem, there's no issue with the conditions," Ainslie added.

    [06] Olympic ticket sales up

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    More than 80,000 tickets for the Athens 2004 Olympics were sold to the public last week, the games' national organisers said on Sunday.

    The figure was sharply higher than an average of around 4,000 seats sold daily in June, the organising committee said in a statement.

    On Monday, another 2,150 seats for the games opening and closing ceremonies on August 13, along with track events at the Olympic Stadium, will be available for purchase, the statement added.

    [07] Gov't to set up farm development centres

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    The government is to set up farm development centres through-out the country, Agricultural Development and Foodstuffs Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said on Saturday.

    "Creation of the centres is part of a new operational model for the agriculture ministry, which is to become more a flexible, modern unit that can meet the needs of the times, the needs of the future," Tsitouridis said in the Cretan town of Hania.

    In addition, a farm products marketing board would be established by the end of the year, Tsitouridis said.

    Finally, the government aimed to further reduce output costs of farm products.

    "We have already lowered the cost of the controls and subsidies system by 25 percent compared with last year; we have reduced insurance premiums for animal output by 20 percent; we have cut borrowing rates for farmers by half a percentage point; and we are preparing a legal change to tackle the enormous problem of overdue loan penalty rates for our farmers," the minister said.

    [08] Ferry bomb threat was a hoax

    Athens, 2/8/2004, (ANA)

    Police said on Saturday that a bomb threat against an island passenger ferry the previous evening was a hoax.

    An anonymous caller had told an Athens daily that explosives planted aboard the Blue Star 1, plying a route between Piraeus, Mykonos, Kos and Rhodes, would explode at midnight on Friday.

    Authorities activated an anti-terrorist plan codenamed Lavis, combing the vessel for explosives after evacuating passengers and crew on Mykonos.

    [09] EU Ambassador welcomes government measures

    NICOSIA 2/8/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    The head of the European Commission's Representation in Cyprus Ambassador Adriaan van der Meer has welcomed the measures the government of Cyprus announced on Friday to facilitate trade for the Turkish Cypriots across the ceasefire line, that divides the country since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    In his address to the 42nd Annual General Meeting of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, he called on businessmen to start trading now that the legal framework was in place.

    Chamber President Ali Erel said that all the measures, regulations or other moves to ease trade were temporary and necessary because of the absence of a political settlement. He stressed that these cannot replace a solution.

    ''The measures announced Friday by the government on buses, taxis and trucks are welcome. They support our Green Line policy (which refers to intra-island trade),'' van der Meer said.

    He analysed the Commission's three-fold approach on trade across the Green Line, a proposal for direct trade between the EU which will enter into force soon and the island's northern Turkish occupied areas as well as a proposal for financial assistance (259 m. euros) both of which wait further discussion at the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament in September or October.

    The ambassador said that both chambers of commerce (Greek and Turkish Cypriot) had an important role to play in this matter and called on businessmen to ''now start trading'', noting that EU experts would be available to assist the Turkish Cypriot Chamber.

    Ali Erel said ''all measures that are trying to be applied, the regulations, direct flights (to and from the occupied areas) and all the others are temporary, they are needed because of the lack of asettlement."

    He said that ''no temporary measure can replace the efforts of finding a solution to the Cyprus problem and can not constitute an alternative. We must carry on working for our ultimate aim of a political settlement and we must succeed.''

    Erel acknowledged that Turkish Cypriots for years had trapped themselves in a closed economy by their own mistakes and had come to be dependent on privileges in order to live.

    He said the Turkish Cypriot community will have to be transformed and social powers will have to contribute to that goal.

    Concluding his remarks, he said Turkey by virtue of its location, size and economy would become the business partner not only of the Turkish Cypriots but also of the Greek Cypriots.

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