|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-08-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>August 14, 2004
 Spectacular Opening Ceremony celebrates "Olympic homecoming"
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)The seminal civilization that gave birth to the Olympic Games was the axis and dominant theme at the Opening Ceremony of the XXVIII Olympiad on Friday, as a phantasmagoric spectacle was played out on a miniature sea created on the floor of the main Athens Olympic stadium (OAKA).
A flaming comet, 400 percussionists, fireworks, a "paper boat" carrying a boy across the water-filled stadium, historical allegories replete with mathematical formulas and geometric shapes, a retracing of almost four millennia of Hellenic history up to the establishment of the modern Greek state and the 20th century, as well as a pregnant woman symbolizing the future followed by an olive tree rising from the waters were on stage on Friday night.
The almost four-hour ceremony set the tone for the eagerly awaited "Olympic homecoming", 108 years after the modern Games were revived in Athens. Press leaks apparently added to the anticipation for the "Olympic homecoming" Opening Ceremony, although two dress rehearsals this past week merely confirmed that "all systems are go" for probably the biggest performance ever given at the Olympics.
Bjork's performance will undoubtedly be a show-stopper. The singer from Iceland appeared on the stage with a floor-length gown.
The traditional parade of athletes was followed by a tribute to past Olympic host-cities, the last segment before the opening of the Games and the raising of the Olympic flame, the reciting of the Olympic oaths, the journey of the Olympic Torch, the lighting of a cauldron, designed by the architect that created the state-of-the-art roof over OAKA, Santiago Calatrava, and the finale.
"The Opening Ceremony is a unique opportunity for modern Greece to share its joy in, and pride of the centuries of its history; a history that gave birth to ideas, values and principles, which enlighten us all today. Democracy, philosophy, theater, sport itself, the Olympic Games - all were born in Greece," concept creation and artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou wrote in the media guide circulated just hours before the highly-anticipated ceremony.
More than 2,100 cubic meters of water were used to fill the main performance area, with the water covering some 9,600 square meters of the stadium floor's surface.
Organizers said it took six hours to fill the space with water, but only three minutes to drain via 10 high-speed drainage valves. An underground reservoir will hold 2.3 million liters of water.
Some 10,000 meters of fabric have been used for the 2,428 volunteer performers.
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos opened the Athens Games during the ceremonies.
Olympic flame lit in stadium, ending opening ceremony: Olympic gold medalist Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, the last torchbearer carrying the Olympic Flame, lit the huge torch in the Olympic Stadium on Friday night, officially concluding the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games.
Before reaching Kaklamanakis, the torch was passed from renowned basketball player Nikos Gallis to veteran football star Dimitrios Domazos, and Olympic gold medalists Paraskevi Patoulidou, Akakios Kakiasvilis and Ioannis Melissanidis.
Olympic medalist Pyrros Dymas opened the ceremony, bearing the flag of the Greek Olympic Team.
Athens 2004 President, IOC President speaks at opening ceremony: "Greece will excite the imagination of the world. Yesterday, the Flame shone on the Acropolis. Today it completes its journey and will shine in front of all of you. In one day the Olympic Flame travels across 3,000 years of our history, making its way from the Acropolis to this Stadium, the modern symbol of our Games," Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said at the Athens Olympic Games opening ceremony Friday night.
"Greece is here. We are ready. Millions of Greeks - with their heart and soul - worked hard for us to get to where we are. Together we are writing a new and beautiful chapter in Games history. Tonight history is made. Tonight with you and because of you. We've waited very long for this moment. Let us enjoy and celebrate it, together with our guests, athletes and visitors," she said.
IOC President Jacques Rogge immediately followed Angelopoulou-Daskalaki. "Tonight the whole world is paying Greece a triple homage. Humanity owes you this marvelous adventure that is the Olympic Games, created 28 centuries ago in Olympia. The world is also honoring you for having revived these Games in 1896, here in Athens, following the call of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games. Above all, the world is honoring and thanking you tonight for the organization of the Olympic Games, which are coming back to their roots," Rogge said.
He went on to thank Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and the Athens 2004 team as well as Greek public authorities "who have created an urban legacy that has transformed Athens." He also thanked the volunteers and all those who have supported the Olympic Games.
Finally, he addressed the athletes: "This is the moment you deserve to enjoy, the culmination of your hard work and dedication." Rogge emphasized that "Athletes from the 202 countries, show us that sport unites by overriding national, political, religious and language barriers. May the Games be held in peace, in the true spirit of the Olympic Truce that was created here."
The Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games opening ceremony in numbers:
1982: Construction year of the Olympic Stadium, which was reconstructed for the Olympic Games
18,700: The weight of the Calatrava shelter in tones
2,162: The cubic meters of water which filled the main show area.
6: The hours needed to fill the huge pool created
3: The minutes needed to empty it!
10: The drainage valves of half a meter diameter each
37: The kilometers of wire rope (!) used to cover the cable network
72: The computer-controlled pulleys used to move the settings
22,500: The total weight that the cables on the pulleys could pull
58: The diameter in meters of each Olympic circle formed on the water
450: The meters of natural gas used to create the fiery circles
500: The truck routes needed to remove the earth from the OAKA sporting area that was transformed into a lake
4,648: The volunteers who participated in the opening ceremony
75: The age of the oldest volunteer
7: The age of the youngest volunteer
31: The countries from which the volunteers were from (among others there were volunteers from Norway, Sweden, Spain, Hong Kong and Austria)
700,000: The bottles of water used during the test ceremonies
320: The hours of recorded music
370: The speakers covering the stadium
480: The amplifiers
10,000: The meters of fabric needed for the costumes of all those participating in the ceremony.
7,152: Pairs of socks
4,000: Pairs of shoes
15: Kilometers of thread
 Foreign correspondents say 'Greece enchanted the world' during Olympic Games opening ceremony
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Greece enchanted the world, the Greeks surpassed every expectation and it was the best Olympic Games opening ceremony in history, was the opinion given to the Athens News Agency (ANA) by most foreign correspondents who watched the spectacular opening ceremony of the 28th Olympic Games at the Athens Olympic stadium on Friday night.
"Athens is the flame which lit up the world," said John Mihafey, Reuter's chief editor of the sports department in London.
"I feel privileged to be experiencing and attending the Athens Olympic Games today," he added.
"This was one of the best opening ceremonies I have ever watched," said Tomas Hann, a sports reporter of the German newspaper "Suddeutsche Zeitung."
The BBC's correspondent in Stockholm, Elizabeth Sotiriadou, said on her part "I was brought up in Sweden by Greek parents, but today I feel proud more than ever that I am Greek."
Adam Hirshfield, the sports correspondent of the website of "USA Today" said of the opening ceremony "it was something authentic. It was something very Greek. It was something very beautiful."
 Greek President hosts welcoming reception for IOC, foreign guests
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)President of the Republic, Kostantinos Stephanopoulos, on Friday hosted a reception in honor of International Olympic Committee members.
At the reception, held at the Presidential Mansion's garden a few hours before the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games, Mr Stephanopoulos welcomed around 600 foreign distinguished guests, among them foreign heads of state, prime ministers, church leaders, ministers, ambassadors and other officials.
IOC chairman Jacques Rogge offered a souvenir present to the Greek President and expressed IOC's gratitude to the Greek people and his trust in the preparation work by the Organizing Committee and the Greek government.
Mr Stephanopoulos thanked Mr Rogge and the IOC for their efforts to ensure the success of the Olympic Games.
The guests' list, apart from the IOC's "Immortals", also included Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sophia, Queen of Spain, President of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos, former US President George Bush, former Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and Archbishop Christodoulos. Other guests included Athens Mayor, Dora Bakoyannis, ATHOC chairman Yianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Greece's opposition leader George Papandreou, former Prime Minister Costas Mitsotakis, former Culture Minister of France Jacques Lange and others.
The reception was held in a relatively relaxed protocol while conversations and comments focused on the impeccable Greek Olympic organization. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was "confident that the organization will be excellent", adding he was "eager to see all the sides of Olympic Athens".
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos expressed his belief that "Greece will surprise everyone", while Greek Minister of the Interior Prokopis Pavlopoulos said "this is a great moment, a moment due to the place that gave birth to the Olympic spirit". Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, echoing the comments of foreign guests, said that visitors were "excited and fascinated by the effort made by Greece to organize successful and safe Games".
 Foreign heads of state and government pour in for Athens Olympic Games
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Many heads of state and government and senior officials, as well as many members of royal families, poured into Athens on Thursday and Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games and various events.
Among the heads of state arriving on Thursday were Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the President of Angola Fernando Dos Santos, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Romania Ion Iliescu, the President of Germany Horst Koehler, the President of Serbia-Montenegro Svetozar Marovic and the President of Italy Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
Also arriving in Athens were the joint leaders of the state of San Marino Marino Riccardi and Paolo Bollini, Queen Sophia of Spain and the Infanta of Spain Elena, Prince Joachim of Denmark, the Crown Prince of Norway Magnus Haakon, King Albert of Belgium and Queen Paola, as well as Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark.
Apart from the presidents, heads of state and members of royal families, arrivals included the wife of President Mbeki of South Africa Zanela and the wife of Libyan leader Muammar Khadafi Fathea.
Moreover, the prime ministers of Great Britain Tony Blair, Kyrgyzstan Nicolai Tanayev, Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas, Albania Fatos Nano, Bosnia Herzegovina Adnan Terzic, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Hari Kostov, Latvia Indula Emsis, Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Norway Kjel Magne Bondevik, Bulgaria Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the Netherlands Jean Peter Balkenende also arrived.
Lastly, Swiss Defense Minister Samuel Schmidt was also among the arrivals of foreign dignitaries.
Karamanlis meets foreign leaders in Athens for Olympic Games: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met Friday with foreign leaders, who are in the Greek capital for the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games.
Karamanlis met first with Prime Minister of Bosnia Herzegovina Adnan Terzic, followed by meetings with the Prime Ministers of Ukraine, Turkey and Great Britain, Viktor Yanukovych, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tony Blair respectively.
Each meeting lasted approximately 40 minutes and no statements were made, except for Erdogan commenting on the fact that Athens had changed and saying that he was looking forward to the Games' opening ceremony.
 National Defense Minister calls on armed forces to prove their credibility once more
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos has called on the Greek armed forces to prove once again that they are a credible force of the modern Hellenic Republic.
In a message to all armed forces involved in security operations during the Olympic Games that begin here Friday night, he congratulated everybody on the work done so far.
"The big day has arrived. I congratulate you on the excellent organization and preparation. This is the time to prove once again that the armed forces are one of the most credible institutions in the modern Hellenic Republic," he said in his message.
He said the armed forces were "the main pillar in the entire attempt."
"I wish you good luck in your important mission," he concluded.
Spiliotopoulos will not be present at Friday's opening ceremony as he will be at the national operations centre to direct and coordinate security operations.
 Tony Blair visits Olympic Sailing Centre
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie visited the Olympic Sailing Centre at Ag. Kosmas on Friday. Blair toured the facilities and spoke with members of the British sailing team.
"Athens is ready. Greece always tried to ensure that it would be ready on time," Blair told BBC reporters, adding that one of the most valuable things for Athens will be the new infrastructure and facilities created for the Games.
Asked whether London could learn anything from Athens in its bid for the 2012 Games, Blair replied, "I think there are things that will prove useful for us," highlighting technical issues as one example. The other important issue, according to Blair, is to give people a sense of what the Olympic Games are about.
 Merchant Marine Minister meets with Bush Sr.
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Former US President George Bush expressed complete satisfaction with Olympic security measures and said he was impressed with the port of Piraeus during his meeting with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis aboard the cruise liner "Tourama" on Friday.
Kefaloyiannis welcomed Bush at the port of Piraeus and wished him a pleasant stay during the Olympic Games.
 The U.S. has worked closely with Greece for safe and successful Olympics, State Department says
WASHINGTON 14/8/2004 (ANA - A. Ellis)U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli stressed the close cooperation between Greece and the United States in preparing for the Athens Olympics, when asked to comment on the Games that are officially launched with the opening ceremony on Friday evening. "The United States has been working closely with the Government of Greece and Greek authorities to help make this a successful and safe Olympic Games. We have had excellent cooperation and made excellent progress. Thousands of Americans, including an official delegation led by former President Bush, have traveled to Greece, and we are looking forward to a successful Olympic Games in the land of their birth," he said during a press briefing on Thursday. At the same time, Ereli rejected suggestions that the U.S. was in some way violating the Olympic Truce through its actions in Iraq, saying there was no connection between the truce and events in Iraq.
 Pope sends message for Olympics to President Stephanopoulos
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)In a message to President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Friday, the day of the official launch of the Athens Olympic Games, Pope John Paul II expressed hope that the Games will help bring nations and cultures closer together.
"In the spirit of the Olympic Truce, I hope the Olympic Games provide an opportunity for brotherhood between nations and cultures, because sport is a universal dialect of human relations, which develops a family spirit and helps overcome the violence that marks the entire modern world," the message read.
The Pope also expressed his best wishes for organizers, athletes and spectators participating in the Games.
 IOC gives Kenteris, Thanou until Monday to show up at disciplinary commission
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)The IOC's disciplinary commission on Friday gave two Greek Olympic champions smack in the middle of an anti-doping furor a 48-hour extension (Monday) to appear before it.
The commission, convening at a security-ringed downtown Athens hotel that serves as the main IOC headquarters here, heard statements from Greek Olympic team officials stating that the pair of sprinters -- gold medalist Costas Kenteris and silver medalist Katerina Thanou -- will be hospitalized for another 48 hours.
A mysterious late-night motorcycle accident in southern Athens resulted in the pair being treated at the northern Athens KAT hospital, hours after the IOC requested their samples for an anti-doping test.
A press release by the IOC confirmed the disciplinary commission's postponement and also identified Kenteris and Thanou by name. The IOC statement referred to alleged anti-doping violations.
Government spokesman: "The case is not a pleasant one and the Hellenic Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee are following developments," Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Friday in response to questions regarding Greek athletes Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou in failing to show up for a doping test on Thursday.
In response to questions regarding the circumstances of the two athletes' motorcycle accident late Thursday night, Roussopoulos referred to the relevant police announcement.
As for the athletes' health condition, Roussopoulos said that a statement was expected to be released shortly from KAT, the hospital in the northern suburbs where Kenteris and Thanou are being hospitalized. The government spokesman emphasized that the first statement came from the Zappeion Press Centre because the hospital was unable to send out a press release at that time. "However, the contents of the announcement came from KAT," he said.
As for the case itself, Roussopoulos pointed out that investigations are under way and therefore refused to comment on the handling and scope of the case. He did however, emphasize that Greece respects "the Olympic ideals which oblige everyone to obey the rules."
He reminded everyone present that technical responsibility for the Games lies with the IOC and Athens 2004 and therefore "the government is not involved in the case." He emphasized that "We must honor the more than 400 Greek athletes who are participating in the Games. It's a big team, taking part in a major event."
Finally, Roussopoulos said that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had been informed of events Thursday night and is being kept up-to-date on developments. The government spokesman refused to guess at the outcome.
 Turkish warplanes violate national air space
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Two formations of Turkish warplanes made an equal number of infringements of air traffic regulations in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) at 12.30 at noon, which developed into two violations of national air space in the region of the northern Aegean, press reports said on Friday.
However, according to the reports, the Turkish warplanes left the area when Greek air force jets arrived in the area to recognize and intercept them.
 5th General Assembly of Greek-descent parliamentarians begins in Nafplio
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)The 5th General Assembly of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Union (WHIU) began in the coastal town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese on Friday. The WHIU is made up of MPs of Greek descent in non-Greek Parliaments.
On its first day, the assembly agreed to set up five advisory committees dealing with the preservation of the Greek language and heritage, the Parthenon Marbles and other antiquities, debate on major foreign policy issues for Greece such as the Cyprus problem and Aegean issues, promoting relations between the Parliaments of Greece and Cyprus with those to which the MPs belonged and issues affecting the Greek Diaspora.
 Record number of flights at Eleftherios Venizelos airport
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Athens international airport, Eleftherios Venizelos, handled efficiently on Thursday, eve of the 2004 Olympic Games, 795 flights, a historic record for the airport.
Scheduled flights accounted for 72.3 per cent of the total traffic, charter flights for 4.3 per cent, with general aviation and other types of flights for 23.4 per cent.
A total of 58,332 passengers were welcomed at Eleftherios Venizelos throughout the day, with a record 32,496 arriving and 25,836 departing.
Today 761 flights are scheduled to operate at the airport while 682 flights are expected on Saturday.
 Greek businessman reported to seek acquisition of Cypriot insurance company
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Greek businessman Dimitrios Kontominas is reported to have expressed interest for the purchase of Universal Life, an insurance company based in Cyprus.
According to local press reports, Interamerican Greece, a company sold in 2001 by Kontominas to Dutch insurance group Eureko, was also showing interest in buying the Cypriot company. "Politis", a daily newspaper based in Nicosia, Cyprus, said it had contacted with Eureko's communication director, Mrs Lorrie Morgan, who dismissed the reports as purely "market speculation".
Bank of Cyprus on Thursday announced third party's interest to acquire a 25 percent equity stake in Universal Life Insurance Company Ltd, currently owned by the bank and related funds. The newspaper expects a similar announcement by Laiki Bank, owner of a 34.8 percent equity stake in the insurance company.
 Bulgaria vows to boost electricity exports if needed for Athens Olympics
Athens, 14/8/2004 (ANA)Bulgaria on Friday pledged to supply Greece with 100 percent of its imported electricity needs should a shortage arise during the Olympic Games.
The neighboring country's National Electricity Corporation, which provides Greece with 40 percent of its electricity imports, said that it had taken measures to shore up its high-tension transmission cables and other key points in the power grid.
The corporation's head told Bulgarian state radio that up to 100 percent of imports could be provided if problems arose with Greece's other suppliers, Serbia and Romania, or if contingencies in Athens drove up demand.