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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-08-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

August 11, 2003


  • [01] IOC president Rogge anticipates more doping incidents at 2004 Games after introduction of stricter regulations
  • [02] Cabinet discusses Olympics, justice issues
  • [03] PM instructs all ministers to be on standby during Olympics
  • [04] Gov't on presence of foreign armed security in Greece
  • [05] Former US President Bush arrives in Greece for Olympics
  • [06] No invitations sent for the Olympic Games, says Greek government
  • [07] Koumoutsakos says no difference of opinion between Athens and Nicosia on enhancing Turkish Cypriots
  • [08] NATO begins sky patrols for Olympic Games
  • [09] Defense minister discusses Olympic Games security with ND Secretary
  • [10] Palestinian envoy presents nat'l Olympic team, comments on security; symbolic presence of Greek ex-champion axed by IOC
  • [11] Balkan mayors in Thessaloniki in view of Olympic Games
  • [12] Gov't on entry into Greece by Burmese, Zimbabwe officials
  • [13] Mexico's ambassador urges Mexican journalists to adhere to code of ethics
  • [14] Olympic costs bring urgent need for fiscal adjustment, analyst says
  • [15] Airport officials say 17,000 Olympic Family members have arrived in Greece so far
  • [16] Tourism Minister meets with head of International Federation of Tourist Agents
  • [17] Stocks drop in flaccid trade
  • [18] Stadium capacity more than 75 pct in first day of Olympic tournament, ATHOC says
  • [19] ATHOC president honors members of Athens Olympic Games candidacy group
  • [20] Olympic Games kick off with football qualifiers on Wednesday
  • [21] IMO officials fully satisfied with security at Olympic marinas
  • [22] Organizations opposed to Olympics hold press conference
  • [23] Peace doves fly to Rome from Athens
  • [24] Archbishop Christodoulos receives Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos
  • [25] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos opens inter-religious meeting on 'Religion, Peace and Olympic Ideals'
  • [26] Waterlogged Turkish-flag tugboat sends out distress signal
  • [27] UNSG sends letter to Cyprus president on missing persons
  • [28] Turkish Cypriot politician to travel to Athens via Larnaca Airport

  • [01] IOC president Rogge anticipates more doping incidents at 2004 Games after introduction of stricter regulations

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge on Tuesday said he anticipated more doping incidents to arise during the 2004 Olympic Games which open in Athens on Friday, due to the stricter doping regulations that have been put into effect starting with the 2004 Games.

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC), began its 116th annual session on Tuesday in Athens ahead of the opening of the XXVIII Olympic Games, and Rogge's statement was confirmed by an IOC spokeswoman during a press briefing after the session.

    During the session, the IOC decided to "exclude" Indonesia's IOC member Mohamed Hasan, who has been convicted in his country for embezzlement and lost all court cases in the appeals process for reversal of the conviction. The IOC decision was taken with 101 votes (for exclusion), 3 against and 6 abstentions, after the discussion was held in-camera "to protect his (Hasan's) privacy", according to the IOC spokeswoman.

    With respect to the bribery issue involving another IOC member, Ivan Slavkov of Bulgaria, the IOC said it wanted the BBC to provide it with all the footage of the alleged incident. The IOC last week provisionally suspended Slavkov pending a full inquiry, withdrawing his accreditation for the Athens Games. During a sting-operation by BBC Panorama program, Slavkov allegedly claimed that IOC members were ready to accept bribes for deciding on the city to host the 2012 Games -- the candidates for which are London, Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow -- and that he was "open to negotiations" about which city he would cast his vote for. Slavkov has claimed he had "played along" in order to expose what he had believed to be a real attempt at vote-buying and to trap the "corrupters".

    Further, the IOC named Guatemala City as the host of its 119th session in 2007. Singapore is hosting 117th session in 2005 and Turin, host of the 2006 Winter Olympics, will be hosting the 118th IOC session that year.

    Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch -- during whose presidency Athens was awarded the 2004 Games -- asked by the Athens News Agency (ANA) what he thought about holding another Olympic Games in Greece in the future, replied: "Why not? Not every four years, of course, but why not in 20 years? Obviously, it depends on (the success of) these Games".

    [02] Cabinet discusses Olympics, justice issues

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    A meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday focused on the Olympics, while an earlier meeting of the inner cabinet dealt with justice-related issues, substitute government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said.

    He stressed that the Olympics were a "great national enterprise" to which everyone, especially Greek citizens, had contributed.

    "We are on standby day and night and we are completing planning on the use of Olympic facilities after the Games, which will satisfy even the harshest critics," he added.

    Antonaros stressed that the government had from the very start made completion of Olympic projects its top priority, mobilizing new forces to ensure that Greece was ready to host excellent and secure Games.

    "What's important is that now, three days before the opening ceremony, everything is ready, everyone is in their place and all the international media recognize that everything was completed on time," he said.

    He said the planning of the opening ceremony aimed to highlight Greece's image as a modern country worldwide.

    [03] PM instructs all ministers to be on standby during Olympics

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday with one exclusive item on its agenda: the 2004 Olympic Games.

    The prime minister is reported to have told his ministers to be available day and night in the coming weeks since the Games are to begin this Friday, here in Athens.

    "Everything is ready and this has been recognized both at home and abroad," he said, according to sources.

    Karamanlis said projects have been completed with sacrifices from the people of Greece and has asked all ministers to contribute to the planning for the use of the Olympic sites after the event.

    Minister of Public Order Voulgarakis dismissed press reports that armed bodyguards will accompany athletes and stressed that the Greek government has the responsibility for the security during the Games.

    "There has been no complaint in this regard," the minister said.

    [04] Gov't on presence of foreign armed security in Greece

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Substitute government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday stressed that no one was allowed to bear arms within Greek territory except those charged by the Greek State with guarding security. He was responding to recent articles in the press claiming that foreign armed security personnel will be coming to Greece during the Olympics.

    Antonaros underlined that there would be no foreign armed guards for the protection of foreign athletes.

    The reports were also dismissed by Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, who stressed that the Greek government will be in charge of Olympic security, and that all measures were enforced with respect for the Greek Constitution and Greek laws.

    In the past, the government has said that armed guards will be permitted for foreign heads of state and government, including former presidents and prime ministers, in accordance with international protocol.

    [05] Former US President Bush arrives in Greece for Olympics

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Former U.S. President George Bush arrived Tuesday morning at "Megas Alexandros" international airport, in Kavala, Greece accompanied by his wife Barbara and his granddaughters, the twin daughters of current U.S. President George Bush, members of his family and their entourage, including 20 FBI agents (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

    The Bush family arrived on board a Boeing 757, which belongs to Primater company of the Latsi group, amid stringent security measures before, during and after their arrival.

    The former president and his entourage flew by helicopter to the port of Eleftheron where they boarded on "Dumara", the luxury cruiser of the Latsi family.

    On Wednesday, Dumara will dock at the port of Piraeus, after a short cruise around the Aegean. Greek American Alex Spanos and his wife are among those on board the yacht.

    Bush and his entourage will attend Friday's opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games and one game of the US national baseball team.

    Strict security measures have been taken for the movement of the Bush family to and from Piraeus. US embassy cars will be used for members of the group while Bush himself will use a US coast guard helicopter, accompanied by Greek fighter planes. Megas Alexandros airport was selected for his arrival because it is a common secret that it provides absolute security. This airport is also used by many other VIPs, including the heir to the British throne.

    [06] No invitations sent for the Olympic Games, says Greek government

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek government has not sent out invitations for the 2004 Olympic Games but it has responded to expressions of interest, deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Tuesday replying to a press question about the non dispatch of an invitation to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

    With regard to the participation of former king of Greece Constantinos in a function hosted by the President of the Republic, Antonaros said "this is in line with the protocol of the presidency" and explained that the invitation to Constantinos was extended in his capacity as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

    [07] Koumoutsakos says no difference of opinion between Athens and Nicosia on enhancing Turkish Cypriots

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Deputy government spokesman George Koumoutsakos dismissed on Tuesday allegations that there was a difference of opinion between Athens and Nicosia on the issue of the European Commission regulation to directly fund the Turkish Cypriots.

    Koumoutsakos also said Turkish Cypriot politician Mustafa Akkinci would be attending the Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games, noting that Akkinci had "repeatedly visited Athens."

    Referring to this specific trip, Koumoutsakos pointed out that Akkinci would be using a Turkish passport to travel.

    Akkinci is expected in Athens on Thursday on a flight from Larnaca Airport, in the government-controlled areas of the Republic of Cyprus. This will be the first time a Turkish Cypriot politician uses a legal departure point on the island.

    [08] NATO begins sky patrols for Olympic Games

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    NATO is ready to assist, upon Greek authority request, in ensuring the safe conduct of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, having completed on Tuesday preparations with the commencement of operational flights by AWACS aircraft.

    According to a NATO press release, the AWACS are special aircraft equipped with radar capable of detecting air traffic over long distances and at low levels, each providing a wide range of coverage of over 310,000 square km. Their mission is to provide surveillance and early warning for defensive purposes.

    "At Greece's request, NATO has launched operational activities entitled 'Distinguished Games' to assist the Hellenic government - which has full responsibility for the overall Olympic security operation," the press release reads.

    [09] Defense minister discusses Olympic Games security with ND Secretary

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday met with the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Secretary Evangelos Meimarakis and discussed issues related to the security of the Olympic Games and to the social mission of the Armed forces.

    Spiliotopoulos said that the Armed Forces are completely ready to fulfill their mission. He noted that all the measures which the National Defense Ministry is taking are "precautionary measures which cannot exceed the basic essence and the spirit of the Olympic Games."

    On his part, Meimarakis said that "also judged in these Olympic Games is the issue of security and we really view that the Armed forces under the leadership of Spilios Spiliotopoulos have exceeded our expectations, have exceeded themselves," noting that "the security of the Olympic Games in cooperation with the other ministries is secured in the best possible way."

    NATO Commander for Southern Europe in Athens for Olympic Games: NATO Commander for Southern Europe, Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, arrives in Athens on Wednesday in view of the Olympic Summer Games' opening ceremony, at the invitation of Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, General Georgios Antonakopoulos.

    During his stay in Greece, Admiral Gregory G. Johnson will visit archaeological sites and will meet with General Antonakopoulos to discuss Olympic Games security issues.

    The NATO official will be departing from Greece on August 14th.

    [10] Palestinian envoy presents nat'l Olympic team, comments on security; symbolic presence of Greek ex-champion axed by IOC

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    The Palestinian diplomatic delegation in Athens on Tuesday unveiled the embattled entity's three-person Olympic team, less than 24 hours after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) disqualified a former Greek javelin champion from symbolically competing with the Palestinian Authority's colors.

    "With great disappointment, we were informed late yesterday of the IOC decision to disqualify Mrs. Sakorafa from our team for technical reasons," Palestinian envoy Marwan Abdelhamid told more than two dozen reporters and international television crews in the early afternoon.

    Sofia Sakorafa, 47, a one-time champion javelin thrower and Olympic hopeful in the early and mid '80s for Greece, had competed recently in various meets in her attempt to qualify for the 2004 Games with the nascent Palestinian team -- comprised of a 17-year-old swimmer, a female 800-meter runner, 18, and a 25-year-old 800-meter runner as well.

    "After Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, we are honored to be part of the Athens 2004 Olympics. Nevertheless, our joy and pride are shadowed by the fact that, despite Palestine having been accepted as an equal member in the family of Olympic nations, we are not, yet, an equal member of the family of free and independent nations," the envoy said in his initial comments. He also told reporters that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat expressed his regrets when informed of Sakorafa's disqualification late Monday evening.

    Reading from a prepared statement, Abdelhamid first sharply criticized Israel for the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, before touching on the crucial issue of security for the Athens Games -- just three days before the Opening Ceremony.

    Abdelhamid cited Greece's traditionally friendly ties with the Arab world and the Palestinians, before noting: "Therefore, our Greek brothers and sisters can be assured that no true Arab or Muslim would carry any harmful intentions towards their (Greeks) country."

    A reference to 1972: Asked afterwards about any security parallels between the terrorism-blighted '72 Munich Games - where 11 Israelis were killed in an unprecedented terrorist action -- and Athens 2004, Abdelhamid said:

    "Some people, they would like to highlight the 1972 aggression and terrorist action this was a small group, not the Palestinian revolution; just like today, we have small groups - we can't control everybody - and we shall remember that 1972 was declared by the 'Black September' protesting the occupation, the killing, the massacre of the Palestinians.

    "We, as Fattah and PLO, we don't accept this, we condemn all these actions, because it doesn't help our struggle," the envoy said, adding that he was confident everything has been done by Greek authorities to ensure successful and secure Games.

    Finally, he also referred to Palestinian assistance towards Athens in the field of information exchange and anti-terrorism intelligence.

    [11] Balkan mayors in Thessaloniki in view of Olympic Games

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Mayors participating in the extraordinary session of the Major Balkan City Network (BALCINET), to be held on Thursday in Thessaloniki in view of the Olympic Games, are expected to discuss the establishment of an interbalkan university, the promotion of Balkan culture and Thessaloniki's bid to host EXPO 2008.

    Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos told a press conference on Tuesday that the mayors of all BALCINET cities were attributing an interbalkan nature to the repatriation of the Olympic Games, sending the international community a message of local authority determination to cooperate and join forces in order to tackle the challenges faced by local societies.

    Mayors and representatives will be arriving in Thessaloniki on Wednesday from 19 cities, namely Tirana, Argyrokastro, Korytsa (Albania), Banja Luka (Bosnia Herzegovina), Sofia, Plovdiv, Burgas (Bulgaria), Skopje, Tetovo, Koumanovo (FYROM), Bucharest, Timisoara, Kraiova (Romania), Belgrade, Nis (Serbia Montenegro) and four mayors from the town planning group of Brussa (Turkey).

    On Wednesday, the delegations will watch the qualifying football match Greece Vs Korea at Kaftanzoglio Stadium, in the context of Olympic Games.

    Papageorgopoulos said his municipality would be setting up a huge screen and a video wall in the city to broadcast Friday's opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

    [12] Gov't on entry into Greece by Burmese, Zimbabwe officials

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Questioned about whether the tourism ministers of Zimbabwe and Burma would be allowed to attend the Athens Olympics beginning on Friday, even though they were on a list of persons barred from receiving an EU visa, substitute government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday said that Greece's stance will be determined by its treaty obligations to the EU.

    The spokesman also denied press reports that a number of Arabs living in Greece had been placed under restriction or that special measures would be taken regarding the work of Mexican journalists.

    "We hope that all journalists will abide by the rules and laws," he said.

    [13] Mexico's ambassador urges Mexican journalists to adhere to code of ethics

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Mexico's Ambassador to Athens Alejandro Dias Perez Duarte issued an announcement on Tuesday wherein he referred to recent events involving members of the Mexican press who allegedly violated rules and regulations. "Mexico enjoys a good reputation in Greece, which we want to maintain. This is why we have demanded from Mexican journalists to adhere to their profession's code of ethics and to respect Greek law, paying particular attention to existing security measures," Dias Perez Duarte said.

    Referring to the media's portrayal of events, the ambassador also stated that "we want truthful and objective information which will not distort facts. A negative and unverified rumor which spreads is more damaging than 1,000 truths that are vaguely stated." He also emphasized that Mexico supports and admires the Greek people and supports the efforts of the IOC, the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee and the Greek government for the successful staging of the Olympic Games.

    In closing, Dias Perez Duarte stressed that, "the success of Greece, of this great little country, will be everyone's success."

    [14] Olympic costs bring urgent need for fiscal adjustment, analyst says

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Higher costs than anticipated linked to the Athens 2004 Olympics underline an urgent need for Greece to tackle its fiscal imbalances, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said in a market report.

    Released on Monday, the report on Greece, which S & P has rated at A+/Stable/A-1, said that although convergence with other EU economies and strong investment growth underpinned the country's medium-term fiscal sustainability, delays in the implementation of structural reform or significant fiscal slippage could pressure ratings.

    In a bid to finish on time for the games' opening ceremony, many construction works are consuming more cash than expected. Demands from civil servants and security forces to be given an "Olympics bonus" may also contribute to mounting costs.

    As a result, the initial price tag for the Games of 4.6 billion euros has already been hiked to an estimated 6.1 billion euros, or 3.7 percent of GDP, and is still climbing. With limited enthusiasm being shown by the private sector for financing the games, most of the financial burden will be carried by the government, the report said.

    As a result, Standard & Poor's increased its estimates for Greece's borrowing plan for 2004 to 40.0 billion euros, from the 26.3 billion euros originally budgeted by the previous government, partly due to Olympics cost overruns. The overruns could hinder efforts to bring down the general government debt-to-GDP ratio in Greece from its current level of 103 percent.

    "The post-Olympics tasks facing the government are related to a stubbornly high public debt ratio, lack of budgetary transparency, weak expenditure discipline, and adverse demographics," said S & P credit analyst Eileen Zhang. "All of these issues look set to be compounded by a more subdued prospect for economic growth, especially in the domestic demand components, once the Olympics stimulus fades."

    The report noted that there were strong reasons to doubt that fiscal consolidation witnessed in the latter half of the 1990s will automatically resume after the Olympics.

    Although the headline general government budget balance improved by around two percentage points of GDP every year in the mid-1990s, most of the improvement in that period resulted from lower interest payments and a higher tax-take. Primary expenditure, on the other hand, made a negative contribution to the government balance.

    Following a brief improvement in 2002-2003, primary spending growth has once more outpaced output expansion in 2004, partly because of the Olympics-related spending programs.

    Consequently, fiscal improvements will have to come from a much more disciplined approach toward government spending. This need is reinforced by the fact that the government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis plans to lower the tax burden, S & P said.

    In addition, savings on interest payments will start to peter out, and could even reverse if the historically low Eurozone interest rates begin to rise and bond spreads widen.

    Expenditure restraint will be a necessary ingredient for a significant and sustained reduction in the very high public debt-to-GDP ratio, which remains at more than 55% above that of the 'A' median. In contrast with other highly indebted EU peers, Greece's debt ratio has not declined notably from its peak, the report said.

    "The challenges faced in preparing for the Olympics have at least served to raise awareness of the need for fiscal reform," Zhang said. "Nevertheless, the magnitude of the task required is still sobering and strongly suggests that there is no time to waste if the buildup of an unsustainable imbalance in Greek public finances over the longer term is to be avoided. Correcting this disequilibrium will make the post-Olympics fiscal clean-up more like a marathon than a 100-meter dash."

    [15] Airport officials say 17,000 Olympic Family members have arrived in Greece so far

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Officials at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport on Tuesday said that 16,966 members of the Olympic Family have arrived in Greece so far through the airport -- the largest in the country -- with the daily arrival rate now standing at approximately 3,500 per day.

    Athens' new airport handled 632 flights on Monday and expects a further 676 on Tuesday and 710 on Wednesday, carrying more than 7,000 Olympic Family members.

    [16] Tourism Minister meets with head of International Federation of Tourist Agents

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday met with visiting chairman of the International Federation of Tourist Agents, Martin Brackenbury, as part of the country's tourism authority's efforts to achieve closer relations with representatives from the tourism industry around the world.

    Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Mr Avramopoulos stressed that Greek tourism was entering a new dynamic course, mainly benefiting from the Olympic Games and announced a series of high-level meetings with the world's largest tour operators, probably in October, in Athens.

    The Greek minister said that during the meeting with Mr Brackenbury he presented the government's new perception of Greek tourism, based on "Culture-Development-Environment" and underlined the ministry's pledge to present its new strategic plan on tourism soon.

    Mr Brackebury expressed his satisfaction over the invitation by Tourism minister to visit Athens and stressed that Greek tourism, especially after the Olympic Games, could become a significant sector in the Greek economy.

    [17] Stocks drop in flaccid trade

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower with players from home and abroad taking a wait-and-see attitude ahead of news on US interest rates, later selling almost across the board, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,281.13 points, showing a decline of 0.70 percent. Turnover was 74.2 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.72 percent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.25 percent lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.16 per cent down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 138 to 115 with 92 remaining unchanged.

    [18] Stadium capacity more than 75 pct in first day of Olympic tournament, ATHOC says

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Stadium capacity in the first day of the Olympic Games tournament would exceed 75 percent, Marton Simitsek, the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee's executive director said on Tuesday, adding that ATHOC has already achieved 91 percent of its financial target, which was 183 million euros.

    "This development makes us very optimistic," Simitsek told reporters. ATHOC announced a new daily record of ticket sales, with 84,282 tickets on Monday. Soccer topped the list with 17,806 sales, followed by track and fields (17,236), baseball (3,514) and equestrian (3,094).

    ATHOC also announced a large number of celebrities that would carry the Olympic torch in Athens, among them, US gold medalist Carl Lewis, top model Naomi Campbell and several Greek artists and athletes. A total of 150 torch bearers will carry the Olympic Flame on its last day in Athens, covering a distance of 53.2 km.

    Serafim Kotrotsos, ATHOC's head of Press and Media, speaking to reporters expressed the Committee's displeasure with a new incident involving Mexican journalists in Greece.

    [19] ATHOC president honors members of Athens Olympic Games candidacy group

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki on Tuesday honored members of the Olympic Games candidacy group during a ceremony held at Olympic installations in the Athens district of Goudi.

    Daskalaki, in a brief address, thanked them and delivered to them symbolically the Torch of the Athens Games, stressing that the Olympic Flame, which will shine on the altar of the Olympic Stadium in a few days' time to signal the beginning of the Olympic Games, has passed from hand to hand all over the planet and has united all peoples.

    Those honored included Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia. Speaking on behalf of those honored, Avramopoulos thanked Daskalaki and expressed the wish that the Olympic Games will pave new ways for the country.

    A total of 50 people will receive honors (including government members) for working to achieve the 2004 Olympic Games being awarded to Athens.

    Immediately afterwards, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, Coordinating Committee President Denis Oswald, Greek Olympic Committee President Lambis Nikolaou and 20 other IOC members each adopted an olive tree as a continuation of the symbolic initiative taken at the time the Games were being contested, when 11 IOC members had each planted an olive tree for the success of the effort which had been undertaken for the awarding of the Olympic Games.

    [20] Olympic Games kick off with football qualifiers on Wednesday

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    The Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games kick off on Wednesday with the qualifying matches in the men's and women's football tournaments hitting pitches in Greece's Olympic cities.

    The Greek women's team - competing for the first time - will be playing against USA at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium in Patra, followed by Brazil Vs Australia at Kaftanzoglio Stadium in Thessaloniki, and Sweden Vs Japan at Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos.

    The men's team - appearing for the second time in Olympic Games, the first being in 1952 - will be playing against Korea at Kaftanzoglio Stadium on Wednesday, while Tunisia Vs Australia at Pankritio Stadium in Heraklio, Argentina Vs Serbia Montenegro at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium in Patra, and Mali Vs Mexico at Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos.

    Millions of viewers around the world are expected to watch the matches.

    [21] IMO officials fully satisfied with security at Olympic marinas

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    International Maritime Organisation (IMO) officials were completely satisfied with security for the Olympic facilities at Olympic marinas in Piraeus, where eight cruise ships to be used for Olympic hospitality and dozens of luxury private yachts will dock during the Athens Olympics, after a visit accompanied by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis.

    The visit took place on Monday, after which the IMO officials had a meeting with officers in charge of the cruise ship Olympic Zone, during which they noted that all Olympic facilities at Piraeus fully satisfied the requirements of the ship and port security code that went into effect as of July 1, 2004.

    The code applies to all ships carrying out routes that take them more than 20 nautical miles from the coast and the ports that serve them.

    [22] Organizations opposed to Olympics hold press conference

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek Social Forum, the Agon Initiative, the Genoa 2001 Initiative, and the Movement of Popular Struggle held a press conference in downtown Athens on Tuesday evening, informing Greek and foreign journalists of their views regarding the ''negative impact'' of the Athens Olympic Games.

    Representative of the "Anti-2004 Campaign" Panayiotis Tsotsikas said that the Olympic Games are undesirable due to the tremendous environmental and economic costs involved as well as to the 13 workers who lost their lives while working at Olympic sites.

    As for the rights of citizens, Tsotsikas said that a "terrorism-hysteria" has been imported resulting in the deployment of large police and military forces which are used for Olympic Games security.

    Dimitris Stratoulis, spokesman for the Greek Social Forum said that the Olympic Games is a sports industry phenomenon which is based on major sports federations, international communications companies and major, multinational sports products manufacturers.

    The organizations will be holding a demonstration at Neo Iraklio on Thursday.

    [23] Peace doves fly to Rome from Athens

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Three days before the start of the 2004 Olympic Games, thirty-six doves of peace were released into the Greek skies on Tuesday morning, carrying messages of peace to Rome from the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece and Athens Prefect Yiannis Sgourou.

    The doves were released in the blue skies of Greece during a special ceremony, "the flight of peace", attended by deputy minister for sport George Orfanos, a delegation from Rome and local administration officials.

    The doves had flown from Rome on 3 August carrying messages of peace from the leaders of the four religious denominations in Jerusalem and from Pope John Paul II.

    In his message at the ceremony, the deputy minister said the flight was symbolic as it linked two cities with an important historical and cultural past.

    Vartholomeos congratulated Rome and Athens on their "beautiful initiative" and sent peace greetings to Christodoulos, the Pope and the church leaders.

    Christodoulos said in his message that keeping the peace and building love and cohesion is a task the church should continue to contribute to.

    [24] Archbishop Christodoulos receives Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos received Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at his home in the Athens district of Filothei on Tuesday and at the end of their luncheon said "all is well."

    Both primates declined to make any statement afterwards, while Archbishop Christodoulos wished "every success" for the Olympic Games, whose opening will be attended by both of them.

    Vartholomeos arrived on a private flight on Tuesday morning and was welcomed at the airport by Archbishop Christodoulos and senior clergymen. It was the first meeting between the two religious leaders following the crisis in relations between the two Churches which had lasted for months.

    Associates of both primates stressed that a cordial climate existed during the meeting and their discussion during the luncheon focused on the Olympic Games, the Olympic Village and the appearance of Athens which, as Vartholomeos said, has changed.

    On Tuesday evening, Vartholomeos was due to inaugurate the inter-religious meeting organized by the municipality of Maroussi and will be staying in Athens until Saturday evening.

    [25] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos opens inter-religious meeting on 'Religion, Peace and Olympic Ideals'

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Tuesday evening opened the two-day sessions of the inter-religious meeting organized by Athens' Maroussi municipality on the theme "Religion, Peace and Olympic Ideals."

    Among other things, the Patriarch noted that "we have declared and continuously repeat intensely that every crime in the name of religion is a crime against religion and consequently every form of repeated imposition of state religion is contrary to the meaning of religion."

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos in his speech noted that "our participation in the Olympic Games will constitute a unanimous answer and condemnation to terrorism and violence."

    On the first day of the sessions of the inter-religious meeting, apart from representatives of religions and denominations, were representatives of political parties and political leaders.

    Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou conveyed greetings by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, while Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki conveyed greetings on behalf of Parliament.

    The sessions of the inter-religious meeting, being held at the Municipal Mansion of the Municipality of Maroussi, will end on Wednesday.

    [26] Waterlogged Turkish-flag tugboat sends out distress signal

    Athens, 11/8/2004 (ANA)

    A waterlogged Turkish-flag tugboat, the "Kibris", sent out a distress signal at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, while sailing 20 nautical miles off the southern coast of the island of Rhodes. The vessel has a crew of eight.

    The region belongs to the Greek Flight Information Region (FIR), meaning that search and rescue operations will be conducted by Greek ships and aircraft.

    The harbor authority's rescue ship S17, the Greek Navy frigate "Spetses", other ships sailing close by and a Super Puma all-weather helicopter were heading for the region.

    Force 7 winds were reported blowing in the sea region where the Turkish tugboat sent out its distress signal.

    [27] UNSG sends letter to Cyprus president on missing persons

    NICOSIA 11/8/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Monday received a letter by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, regarding the humanitarian issue of missing persons.

    According to an official press release, in his letter to President Papadopoulos, Annan repeats his proposals on the issue, which he had submitted in December 2003, as well as new proposals, incorporating in this way the common understanding that has been unofficially reached between the two sides for quite a long time now.

    The Cyprus president sent a replying letter to Annan on Tuesday, ''reiterating to the UNSG that he accepts his proposals'' and stressing that the Greek Cypriot side ''will do whatever possible for their implementation'', the press release added.

    ''It is deemed that the implementation of the UNSG's proposals will contribute to achieving progress in the efforts made, as well as to the necessary dynamic towards the solution of the humanitarian issue of the missing'', the press release said.

    It is also noted that ''the Cyprus government expresses its gratitude towards UNSG for his interest and efforts to solve the problem for the benefit of the families and for the restoration and respect of their human rights.''

    The Cyprus Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons has already been informed about this new development, the press release said.

    [28] Turkish Cypriot politician to travel to Athens via Larnaca Airport

    NICOSIA 11/8/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Leader of the Peace and Democracy Movement in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, will travel, via Larnaca International Airport, to Athens to attend Friday the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

    Akinci, who was invited by the Greek Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), one of the major sponsors of the games, will depart for the Greek capital on Thursday.

    He is the first Turkish Cypriot politician to go to Athens via a legal Cypriot airport.

    Turkish Cypriots usually travel to Greece via Turkey departing from illegal airports in the Turkish-occupied areas.

    In statements, Akinci said he had originally planned to go to Athens via Istanbul but at the last moment he opted to travel from Larnaca airport.

    Akinci said he accepted the invitation because in this way he will support the Olympic spirit and by traveling via Larnaca, "I want to send a message of peace that Greek and Turkish Cypriots should find a solution to the Cyprus problem on their own," he pointed out.

    The Turkish Cypriot politician did not rule out the possibility of meeting Greek politicians, during his stay in the Greek capital, although no arrangements have so far been made.

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