|Saturday, 8 August 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-08-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>August 30, 2004
 IOC chief hails 2004 Olympics as 'unforgettable, dream Games'
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)August's full moon over the main Olympic stadium (OAKA) in Athens served as an ideal backdrop for the 2004 Games' finale on Sunday evening, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge declaring, "Dear Greek friends, you have won!"
"...You have magnificently achieved the difficult goal of hosting the Games," a beaming Rogge said -- in Greek -- from the floor of the main Olympic Stadium. Athens marked his first Olympic Games at the IOC's helm.
"Efharisto Athena (thank you, Athens), efharisto Ellada (thank you, Greece)," he said, adding, now in English, that the 2004 Olympics were 'unforgettable, dream Games'.
Sunday's Closing Ceremony a decidedly Greek folk and pop theme replacing the elaborate and sensationally staged 3,500-year overview of Hellenic art, culture and history that characterized the Opening Ceremony 17 days earlier.
This time around, a spiral field of wheat replaced a miniature sea -- an allegorical Aegean -- on the stadium floor for a celebration absolutely devoid of the Olympus-sized stress and anxiety that Greek organizers and the entire host-nation felt hours before the 28th Olympic Games commenced amid the shadow of a doping-related controversy.
Rogge declared the 2004 Games closed after receiving the Olympic flag from Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis and subsequently handing it to Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, thus officially ending Greece's seven-year Olympic odyssey. A performance by Chinese dancers followed.
On her part, Athens 2004 (ATHOC) chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki noted that the Olympic Games "came home, and we've shown the world the great things that we Greeks can do ... Athens was great for the athletes and Greece was great for the Games," she told a cheering crowd and tens of millions of television viewers across the world.
"The most athletes in (Olympic) history ... the most women in history, the most national teams … the first global torch relay. The first women to compete in (ancient) Olympia. Safe and secure Games, blessed by a climate of celebration and joy," the high-profile Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said.
Hours earlier, and with several one-time Cassandras in attendance at a final 2004 Olympics press briefing, the Belgian IOC chief declared the Athens Games excellent in every way.
Folk dances and music from every province of the east Mediterranean country revolved around the theme of the harvest, along with traditional wedding processions, a wine-making scene replete with bacchic overtones, Greek isle imagery and, among others, youths leaping over open fires -- an ancient custom still practiced in contemporary times. The segments were capped off with dancing to composer Mikis Theodorakis' Oscar-winning and trademark score from the film "Zorba the Greek", as five Olympic rings formed from wheat bundles. A bevy of the country's top performers, from seasoned veterans to the most popular pop stars, accompanied the segment, entitled "May the dances last forever".
The final act of ceremony in Athens featured children carrying seed-shaped lanterns disseminating the flame from a lowered Olympic cauldron to athletes on the field and the fans in the stands, equipped with their own pendant lights. Moments later the flame atop the Olympic cauldron slowly diminished, with a child blowing out the remaining glimmer.
Rogge 'very, very happy' with Athens Games hours before Closing Ceremony: A jovial IOC chief on Sunday praised practically every facet of the 2004 Athens Games on the day the "Olympic homecoming" comes to what organizers hope will be a flawless finale, while nevertheless maintaining a policy of not comparing host-city performances.
"We are very, very happy about the (Athens) Games ... the world and the Greeks will know how the Olympic movement feels," a beaming Jacques Rogge said at a late morning press conference held at the main press centre, only a short walk away from the main Olympic stadium (OAKA).
"This is not a competition between organizing committees but between athletes ... as a Greek you will be extremely pleased tonight," he told one reporter after fielding repeated queries, with some indirectly attempting to curry a reaction on whether "Athens was best".
Rogge did, however, refer to the "Olympic Village" as being athletes' favorite, whereas he said officials from all the international federations present in Athens told him that the competitions organization was excellent. The Belgian IOC president heaped even more kudos in referring to the new International Broadcast Centre (IBC) as well as all-important worldwide television ratings for the 2004 Games, as he cited good production quality at the state-of-the-art facility and broadcasting CEOs being "ecstatic about ratings around the world". Initial figures cited an average of 15 percent higher viewer ship than Sydney, and in some cases 20 to 25 percent, Rogge said.
Transportation - a standard 'litmus test' for gauging organizing committees' efficiency - glitch-less technology and "flawless security", as he said, earned more of Rogge's praise only hours before the 2004 Closing Ceremony.
"We always expressed confidence in our Greek friends. I always said there was enough time," Rogge again stressed, highlighting the "about face" of most international media and IOC critics vis-a-vis Athens' preparations and organizational acumen.
In terms of ticket sales, a sector that initially generated concerns and negative comments during the first days of the Games, when empty seats plagued certain morning events, and especially at lesser-known sports, Rogge countered that increasing venue capacity was evident after Aug. 15, reiterating that overall ticket sales topped both Barcelona and Seoul. The competition portion of the Athens Games began on Aug. 14
Beyond expressing the International Olympic Committee's pleasure at how well the 2004 Games went, the specter of doping and the Lausanne-based organization's "get tough" policy dominated much of the press briefing. Conversely, in looking four years in the future to Beijing, the former Olympic rower highlighted to what he called the "awakening of Asia."
In response to questions regarding doping, practically the only 'stain' at the Athens 2004, Rogge said the IOC reserves the right to store athletes' samples for eight years and conduct doping tests within that period "if new tests emerge in the future".
 The Closing Ceremony behind the scenes
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Dimitris Papaioannou, the man responsible for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, is also the creator of the Closing Ceremony which was held at the Athens Olympic Stadium on Sunday evening, marking the end of the XVIII Olympiad. While Papaioannou designed the spectacle, 3,691 volunteers executed it. The majority of the volunteers were Greek, but foreigners from 14 countries also participated. The volunteers performing at the ceremonies were chosen after 270 auditions were held.
Rehearsals began on May 28, with each volunteer taking part in at least 12 rehearsals.
An additional 2,000 volunteers from 31 countries worked behind the scenes to ensure a smooth performance.
As for the Olympic Stadium where both ceremonies were held, it has a seating capacity of 72,000 spectators and is covered by the roof designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The roof weighs 18,700 tons and covers 25,000 square meters.
The cauldron, which was also designed by Calatrava, has a length of 31 meters and a perimeter of 4.7 meters. It is made of steel, while the upper 1.5 meters are of stainless steel. The Flame is 6.5 meters high with a diameter of 1.5 meters.
As for the lighting and sound which contributed to making the ceremonies even more impressive, a total of 1,838 spotlights were used, 370 speakers and 480 amplifiers, while 20,000 meters of wire were necessary to connect all the equipment.
Responsible for operating this equipment were 390 individuals, employees of Jack Morton Public Events, the production company charged with realizing Papaioannou's creative ideas.
 USOC praises Athens for the success of the Games
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)"It was a great Games. History will record that these Games are among the greatest, if not the greatest Games of all time," Chairman of the US Olympic Committee Board of Directors Peter Ueberroth said during a press conference in Athens on Sunday as the XVIII Olympiad comes to a close.
Ueberroth thanked Athenians and the Greeks in general for the gift they provided, on behalf of the USOC and the American people. He also thanked the volunteers who put their life on hold for a bit in order to provide their services selflessly. "Everyone thanks the volunteers, but you have to focus for a moment on these people, who have given up a month of their lives to train and perform for nothing - no tickets or anything but to make their country proud. They have done that indeed. To the Olympic officials and to the citizens of Greece, who have proven that this is a friendly country, a successful country, a country to be proud of," Ueberroth added.
Herman Frazier, Chef de Mission of the 2004 US Olympic team thanked Athens 2004 organizers "because they've done a great job of hosting these Games." Frazier also went on to thank the 201 national Olympic committees that took part in the Games. "A lot of them had some hard work to do behind the scenes to get their team prepared and we'd like to salute them," he emphasized.
Speaking of the US athletes, Frazier said: "This team of 2004 has created a new generation of American stars for their particular sports that young people can look up to in the future. From the time this team marched in the Opening Ceremony, this team was focused all the way through." Additionally, Frazier said that the team's goal was to bring home 100 medals and the fact that they surpassed this goal was the result of a "total team effort, from administration to coaches to athletes to the support personnel we have throughout the USOC."
Jim Scherr, USOC Chief Executive also referred to the US team's medals, calling it "a tremendous accomplishment." He congratulated the competitors from the other countries. He congratulated all the US athletes, whether they won medals or not, "because their conduct for these Games brought honor and dignity to themselves and the United States of America."
In closing, Scherr said: "Most importantly, I want to thank the parents, families and coaches of the athletes, who give their time and energy from the very early stages of their development through the Olympic Games."
 Sponsorship program a success
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)The sponsorship program for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games was a "pleasant surprise" for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as well as for the business community, according to ATHENS 2004 Managing Director Ioannis Spanoudakis, who said that all contract were signed in good time, unlike the situation in previous Games.
There were 23 national and 11 international sponsors, compared to 100 sponsors in the Sydney Games and more than 200 in the Atlanta Olympics.
"The Organizing Committee has managed to restrict the commercial aspect of the Games by 60 % and at the same time it increased significantly the value of sponsorship," General Manager, Managing George Bolos said.
The initial revenue target of 200 million euro for the national part of the sponsors program was achieved two years before the Games, with 305 m. euros, a figure that exceeded initial expectations by 57%.
The sponsorship program for ATHENS 2004 secured 570 m. euros, making it the second best source of revenue after the international radio and TV rights (37%).
 Greece raises medals to 16 on last day of Olympic Games
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Greece raised its number of medals to 16 on Sunday, last day of the Athens 2004 Olympic Summer Games, with Alexandros Nikolaidis winning the silver in the men's over 80kg taekwondo event.
In the other events in which Greece competed in on Sunday, Eleni Andriola ranked 9th in the rhythmic gymnastics women's individual all-around, with a total of 97,600 points. The men's water polo team was defeated 6-5 in the bronze medal match against Russia, while Nikolaos Polias clocked in 24th in the marathon with 2:17.56.
Greece is now ranking 15th in the gold medal total and 17th overall, with six gold, six silver and four bronze medals.
Gold medals were brought in by Fani Halkia in the women's 400m hurdles (athletics), Athanasia Tsoumeleka in the women's 20km walk (athletics), Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranides in the men's synchronized 3m springboard (diving), Dimosthenis Tampakos in the men's rings (gymnastics artistic), Ilias Iliadis in the men's under 81kg judo competition, and Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa in the women's 470 (sailing).
Silver medals were won by Hrysopiyi Devetzi in the women's triple jump (athletics), Anastasia Kelesidou in the women's discus throw (athletics), Nikolaos Kaklamanakis in the men's mistral (sailing), Alexandros Nikolaidis in the men's over 80kg taekwondo event, Elisavet Mystakidou in the women's under 67kg taekwondo competition, and the women's team in the water polo event.
The bronze medal crop comprises Mirela Manjani in the women's javelin throw (athletics), Vasileios Polymeros and Nikolaos Skiathitis in the men's lightweight double sculls (sailing), Pyrros Dimas in the men's 85kg weightlifting event, and Artiom Kiouregkian in the men's 55kg Greco-Roman wrestling competition.
 PM to address televised message on Monday night on completion of Athens Olympic Games
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will address a televised message to the nation on Monday night on the occasion of the completion of the Athens Olympic Games. The prime minister had also addressed a message a few days before the Games had begun.
Karamanlis is expected to make a brief account of the Games, thank all who contributed to their success, determine his targets for the country's future and for the use of projects created for the Games, while he might also be referring to the issue of doping.
He is also due to meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge at noon on Monday and earlier in the day he will be meeting the Finnish prime minister and the European Commission President Durao Barroso.
On Sunday night, shortly before going to the Athens Olympic Stadium to attend the Olympic Games closing ceremony, Karamanlis met with Romanian Prime minister Adrian Nastase and the President of London's 2012 Olympic Games Committee Sebastian Coe.
 World renowned British athlete Lord Sebastian Coe calls on PM Karamanlis
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of the committee for London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) board, on Sunday visited Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Former British athlete Coe, who won four Olympic medals and set eight world records in middle-distance running, is a Conservative Party politician.
Asked by reporters on his impressions of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Coe said:"I believe they were very successful. They were held in ultra-modern installations in front of a public with a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm and the performances of the athletes who competed were first-class. Consequently, they had all that one expects from Olympic Games."
Asked to comment on the doping issue involving Greek athletes Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou who withdrew from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Coe said:"It is a very serious matter and the Council will confront it with great seriousness. We have asked for all the files and for all the information both from relevant Greek authorities and from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and we will decide on the issue as soon as possible so that the evaluation of all the information which is at our disposal is correct. We have said that we will have news on the matter before the next session of the Council which is in Helsinki in December. There is a small group in the Council which is working in order for all these things to be done."
 Finmin says Athens 2004 Olympics "worth the effort and cost"
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Sunday welcomed the 2004 Olympics hosted by Athens as a major investment.
"The Olympic Games were worth the effort and the cost. In spite of the difficulties we encountered, this has been a exceptional investment for Greece," Alogoskoufis told the Sunday Vima newspaper.
He said that all Olympic projects were successfully completed, despite the delays.
In addition, the budgeted cost of the games that the government, which assumed office on March 7, was given by its predecessor, stood at least 40 percent lower than the real figure, the minister added.
 Paris mayor impressed by Athens Games
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, whose city is a candidate for the 2012 Olympic Games, said he was impressed by the Athens Games, particularly by the opening ceremony and the warm welcome the Turkish team had received from the spectators.
He also praised the work of the volunteers who, he said, are well educated and very helpful.
Delanoe met on Sunday with Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis with whom he discussed further cooperation between the two capitals and cultural issues.
He said that the experience from Athens would be very useful, should Paris be selected to host the 2012 Games.
 Canadian chef de mission praises Athens Olympics
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)The chef de mission of Canada David Bedford said he was thrilled with what he has experienced during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Speaking at a press conference, he said the Greeks should feel very proud because they organized excellent Games and the Canadian athletes were impressed with the facilities.
The president of the Canadian Olympic Committee Michael Chambers said the Canadian presence in the Games was satisfactory as the athletes did their best in an excellent sporting event.
 Papadoyiannakis takes stock of Greece's performance during the Olympics
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Yiannis Papadoyiannakis, Chef de Mission of the 2004 Greek Olympic team, called the Olympic Games both "one of the most unforgettable, but also one of the most difficult experiences," he's ever had, during a press conference he gave on Sunday, to provide an overview of how the Greek team fared during the Athens Olympic Games.
Papadoyiannakis referred to the doping incidents among Greek athletes, he avoided discussing his (unaccepted) resignation and emphasized that he and the lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos are jointly handling the case of Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, who had his bronze medal withdrawn after testing positive for testosterone.
"The WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] document says that both in the first and second sample, testosterone levels were above 12. However, it is legally interesting that a specific measurement is not given," he said.
He also explained the Hellenic Olympic Committee's (HOC) strategy regarding doping control: "Between June 14 and August 8, the HOC conducted 575 tests, not only on the 442 members of the delegation, but on other athletes as well since we were in the middle of Olympic preparations. Four athletes did not show up for testing (their names were not announced) and they were automatically excluded from the Games."
As for the Greek athletes Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou who were excluded from the Games after missing a doping test on August 12, Papadoyiannakis stressed that "as of July 29 we informed everyone of the new WADA requirements regarding surprise tests. I don't know if [IOC President] Jacques Rogge spoke with Vassilis Sevastis on the night the episode occurred, because I was at the Olympic Village trying to get an extension [to the one-hour deadline WADA had given the two athletes to turn up for a doping test].
The Greek chef de mission also said that he had given the 28 documents related to the case to the public prosecutor.
The Athens Olympic Games should have been a celebration, but for Papadoyiannakis after the developments of August 12, it turned out to be "the most difficult experience I had as chef de mission," he said.
Despite the difficulties, Papadoyiannakis believes that the Athens Olympics were a complete success and this is due to four factors in his opinion: the full stadiums, the accomplishments of Greek athletes, the excellent venues, and the services provided to the foreign teams in terms of accommodation, security and transport. "This is not my own, chauvinistic opinion, but the general feeling at the Olympic Village where I've been staying for practically the last 20 days," Papadoyiannakis said.
From a sports perspective, Papadoyiannakis said the mission was accomplished. Greece had aimed to exceed the number of medals won in Sydney (13) and so far Greece has won 15 medals with several finals still pending. Additionally, the other important factor is that the 15 medals were won in 10 different sport events: athletics, artistic gymnastics, sailing, diving, judo, weightlifting, taekwondo, rowing, wrestling and water polo. This success, according to Papadoyiannakis, proves that Greece has created the necessary infrastructure in sports generally, not in just one or two sports in which Greece had a tradition. Aside from medals however, there were also 45 athletes (or teams) who finished among the top 8, while a total of 65 athletes (32 men, 33 women) were among the top 16.
"It will be quite some time before future Greek generations have a chance to experience something similar. The goal we set was accomplished," Papadoyiannakis said.
 Turin Winter Olympics Organizing Committee president thanks ATHOC
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Valentino Castellani, President of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee, thanked the Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee during a press conference on Sunday, saying experience obtained will help the better organizing of these Winter Olympics.
"I wish to thank our Greek friends for the excellent Games they hosted. We have learnt a great deal and now we are ready for action. The Winter and Paralympic Games may be smaller in size than the Olympic Games but their value, however, is equally great," he said.
Referring to installations which have to be ready for the Turin Winter Olympics, Castellani said "84 percent of the projects are ready or almost ready. We have achieved great progress. In January 2005 we shall by organizing 16 test events."
The Organizing Committee president further said accommodation is one of the weak points, for the time being, but at the same time it is a challenge.
"Accommodation on the mountain is one of our weak points but at the same time it is a challenge for us. You cannot build many houses on the mountain, but we have an excellent solution in Turin which concerns the building of four new hotels. I will be briefing the IOC in September on the completion of the plan," he said.
 What a spectacle!
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Now that the party in Athens is over and everybody is heading back home, people are taking stock of what the past couple of weeks meant to them - each from his or her own perspective. Most are still excited, some ecstatic, a few remain skeptical but none, even those who are counting the costs, has talked about a disappointment or a let down by Greece, which had come under severe criticism from various quarters not that long ago.
Comments have come from all walks of life - politicians, depending on their party affiliations, would take either a critical stance or support wholeheartedly what Greece has achieved through the staging of the 2004 Olympic Games. However ordinary people, Greeks and foreigners alike, give the thumbs up to the Athens Games without hesitation, in spite of minor and mostly isolated complaints.
The Greek government is sure to find itself on the receiving end with opposition parties asking questions about anything and everything related to this big celebration Athens wanted so much to succeed. And by all counts, it has succeeded, if we are to believe what people had to tell ANA as the 28th Olympic Games are coming to an end.
A few words spring to mind which describe what Greece and the world of sport has lived through in the past two weeks: fun, celebration, participation, discipline, law and order, sportsmanship. One comment made by spectators over and over again was the wonderful way people from participating nations cheered the athletes - the winners but also the losers as well as those who perhaps felt a bit homesick and needed some encouragement.
Panayiota Demetriou, 28-year-old businesswoman from Athens, managing director of a local tourist office, told ANA "no matter what anybody says, the truth is that we have all enjoyed ourselves, this was probably the biggest and most successful public relations exercise Greece has ever staged to promote the country.
On top of that, we are now left with infrastructure which might have otherwise taken us years to complete, and that is not a bad deal," she added.
Another Greek, Maro Konstantinou, 50, a teacher, pointed out that fears, mainly from abroad, about security during the Games proved to be totally unfounded - let alone the fact that they caused a hike in the overall cost of the Games. "See, what I was telling everybody? I knew they would not do anything to spoil the Games, not here in Greece anyway," she said.
The same feelings were expressed by an American tourist, who toured Greece and watched some Olympic events too. "Nothing of what I thought would happen actually happened. No bombs, no threats, no unwelcome comments; on the contrary, it was a most wonderful experience, I am coming back to Greece."
Pat Oates, a 55-year-old English lady, in Athens to watch athletics and the equestrian final, was impressed by the discipline that prevailed everywhere, among volunteers, the public and in the different venues. It is no mean feat to get some 70,000 people out of the Olympic stadium in an orderly manner and without any incident, even when people left the stadium disappointed if their team did not do very well, she said.
And what did young Philip Solonos, 24, from Nicosia, Cyprus have to say about the whole thing: "Absolutely superb, a wonderful experience to be here", not to mention the night life of Athens, another city that does not sleep.
But what about the professionals who came here? What did they think of the available facilities? Well, here is what Dirk Homeyer Gast, a German cameraman, had to say: "this is very well done, I must admit I did not expect to find such good organization." And this comment, coming from a German, whose country is renowned for its orderly and timely discipline, says a lot.
Now these Olympic Games are over, in the land where they were born thousands of years ago, there is a sense of relief and pride that all is well that ends well.
 Government and Morgan Stanley discuss cooperation in development programs
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and ministry general secretary Nikos Stefanou held a meeting with the president of Morgan Stanley Stephan Newhouse and the head of Morgan Stanley's Greek branch Panos Goutakis to discuss cooperation between the government and Morgan Stanley in developmental programs, according to a press release sent out by the ministry on Sunday.
 Athens international airport bracing for increased traffic
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Athens international airport at Eleftherios Venizelos is expected to handle 884 flights on Monday, the day after the end of the 2004 Olympics Games, while some 9,237 members of the Olympic family are set to depart.
According to an airport bulletin, 682 flights are scheduled to operate on Sunday at Athens airport, comprising 529 scheduled flights, 23 charter fights and 130 general aviation and other type of flights.
From 00:00 to 14:00 on Sunday, 321 aircraft either took off or landed at the airport, with the baggage handling system dealing with 17,400 luggage pieces.
 Flight from Athens to Copenhagen delayed after airliner's undercarriage runs into trouble
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)A flight from Athens to Copenhagen by a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) aircraft was delayed for at least four hours on Sunday when shortly after taking off from Athens Eleftherios Venizelos airport the pilot notified the control tower that he had indications of undercarriage malfunctioning and requested permission to return to the airport.
The company's Airbus 321 aircraft, carrying out flight 778 to Copenhagen, had taken off from Athens airport at 2.10 p.m. with 186 passengers.
Shortly afterwards the airliner landed safely at Athens airport, where all necessary measures had been taken to handle any eventuality.
The aircraft, after technicians had repaired the malfunction, was due to leave for its destination at about 6.30 in the evening.
 Tribute to Theo Angelopoulos at the 2004 Montreal World Film Festival
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Ottawa (ANA/I. Afendouli) -- World-renowned Greek film director Theo Angelopoulos will be honored on Sunday at the 28th Montreal World Film Festival for his contribution to the international film scene.
The 2004 Montréal World Film Festival got underway Thursday night with the world premiere in competition of the Canadian production Elles Étaient Cinq (The Five of Us), one of 111 movies having their world or international premieres during the Festival, August 26 - September 6.
Some 245 feature films will unspool during the 12-day event, 56 of them world premieres and 55 international premieres, i.e. motion pictures making their debut outside their country of origin. Another 23 classic features will be shown as part of the free Cinema Under the Stars program. Fourteen medium-length productions and 157 shorts will be featured as well, bringing the total number of films at this year's event to 439 from 72 countries.
Opening ceremonies on Thursday night included the presentation of the jury, headed by renowned French director Claude Zidi. Other members include noted American director Jerry Schwartzberg, Czech animator Bretislav Pojar, Oscar-winning Montréal producer Denise Robert, Indian director Goutam Ghose, Mexican actress Diana Bracho, rising Italian star Anita Caprioli and Spanish director Jaime Camino.
Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla and Québec Minister of Culture and Communications Line Beauchamp headed the list of dignitaries and industry officials and personalities at the opening. Director Ghyslaine Côté and the cast of Elles Étaient Cinq will also be in attendance.
Among the highlights of this year's MWFF will be the tributes to the internationally acclaimed star Isabelle Adjani, the legendary Greek director Theo Angelopoulos and the influential Croatian filmmaker Krsto Papic, according to a press release by the organizers.
The tribute includes screenings of Angelopoulos' films throughout the Festival.
 Five youths remanded in custody for late-night brawl in central Athens
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)Five youths were remanded in custody on Sunday following an early-morning brawl among revelers, and were taken before a public prosecutor.
Violence broke out in central Athens at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, near the ISAP train station at the entrance of the Monastiraki outdoor flea market, after brawling youths started throwing bottles, rocks and sticks at each other and at shops, but also at police who went to break up the fight.
Eight other suspects were also taken to the Athens police headquarters on Alexandras avenue for questioning, but were later released.
 Fire near 'Butterfly Valley' on Rhodes under control
Athens, 30/8/2004 (ANA)A fire that broke out near one of the most famous tourist attractions and natural history sites on the island of Rhodes, the 'Valley of the Butterflies', is now under control the local fire department said on Sunday morning.
The fire broke out late on Saturday in an area known as Tholos and quickly spread, fanned by strong winds blowing in the area. It burned through roughly 30 hectares of pine forest and scrubland before it was put out. Five fire-fighting planes from the nearby island of Samos and two helicopters were used to battle the blaze.
Fire-fighters successfully kept the fire away from the Valley of the Butterflies, where millions of colorful Jersey Tiger Moths come each summer to aestivate, creating one of the island's most popular tourist attractions.