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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-03-24

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Olympic Flame begins journey for Beijing Games
  • [02] PM to chair ND central committee meeting
  • [03] Papandreou criticised PM
  • [04] Exhibition for the disabled
  • [05] Kalamata liberation anniversary
  • [06] Aegean Conference in Melbourne

  • [01] Olympic Flame begins journey for Beijing Games

    The Olympic Flame departed on Monday from ancient Olympia for the months-long torch relay to Beijing, host of the XXIX Olympic Games in 2008, following the now customary torch-lighting ceremony that was attended by Greek leadership, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and IOC honorary president Juan Antonio Samaranch as well as by a bevy of IOC members, in addition to Greek and Chinese officials and athletes.

    The 'high priestess' for the 2008 ceremony was Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, who led a ceremony choreographed by Artemis Ignatiou. The latter took over the task for the first time ever from Maria Hors, following the latter's departure after 50 years of choreographing the Olympic torch-lighting ceremonies.

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed a brief message, stressing the principles of noble competition, "ekecheiria" (the Olympic Truce) and peaceful coexistence and understanding that the Games have stood for since their birth in antiquity.

    As ancient as the Games themselves, the concept of Olympic Truce, "Ekecheiria" in Greek, dates to the 11th century B.C., when all hostilities ceased to allow those attending or participating in the Games to travel to Olympia in safety.

    The first torch-bearer was Greece's Olympic silver medallist in Tae Kwon Do (2004 Athens Games) Alexandros Nikolaidis, who relayed the torch to China's Luo Xuejuan, an Olympic gold medallist in the 100m breastroke event.

    A seven-day torch relay within Greece will follow until March 30, when the Olympic torch arrives at the Panathinaiko Stadium (Kallimarmaro) in central Athens, the venue of the first modern version of the Olympic Games in 1896. At 3 pm on that day it will be handed over to the organisers of the Chinese Olympic Games in Beijing by Greek silver medallist in the women's triple jump, Pigi Devetzi.

    The torch will travel 1,528 kilometres in Greece, relayed by 605 Torch-bearers. It will travel through 43 municipalities and four communities in 16 prefectures throughout the country on the first leg of its journey to Athens, while 29 flame-lighting ceremonies will be held along the way in as many cities.

    In a related development that served as the only blemish during the ceremony, a couple unsuccessfully attempted to interrupt the ceremony at the Olympia archaeological site during the address by the president of the Beijing Olympic Games organising committee (BOCOG), Liu Qi, possibly pro-Tibetan activists. An unidentified man, who unfurled a banner, was quickly whisked away by police officers, while the BOCOG chief remained unfazed and continued his address during the internationally broadcast event.

    Prime minister's address

    "With sentiments of joy and pride, we deliver the Olympic torch today to the organisers of the Beijing Olympic Games, and of course to the friendly Chinese people, and wish them every success," prime minister Karamanlis said in a brief address at the ceremony.

    "Today, from Olympia, together with the Olympic Flame, we are also handing down the principles of noble competition and fair play, the Greek and human-wide messages of 'ekecheiria', peaceful coexistence, understanding and cooperation, which today are more timely than ever," the prime minister said.

    "All the Greeks hope that the Olympic Flame's journey throughout the world will strengthen the movement of the people who embrace these principles and are fighting for these ideals," Karamanlis concluded.

    Other speakers

    IOC President Jacques Rogge wished the Torch relay great success and thanked BOCOG for its efforts in preparing for the Beijing Olympics.

    Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) President Minos Kyriakou expressed hope that the Flame of the 2008 Olympic Games will spread the Olympic spirit and shine its light on the Beijing Games. He also wished the 29th Olympiad success.

    BOCOG President Liu Qi said the Torch will convey peace, friendship and hopes and dreams to the people of China and all over the world. Its flame will light up the sky during the Beijing Olympic Games, he said, and expressed hope that the Olympic Flame will light the way to peace, friendship and progress.

    Caption: Actress Maria Nafpliotou, in her role as an ancient high priestess, lights a torch during an Olympic flame-lighting rehearsal ceremony on Sunday, 23 March 2008. ANA-MPA/EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

    [02] PM to chair ND central committee meeting

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will chair a meeting of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Central Committee on Thursday morning.

    The agenda for the meeting is "the course of the changes and reforms in the new four-year term" in government, according to an ND announcement.On Saturday Karamanlis sent a letter of congratulations to Belgium's new Prime Minister Yves Leterme.

    In his letter, Karamanlis said he looked forward to further strengthening of the already excellent Greek-Belgian relations, both at bilateral and and international level.

    Karamanlis further expressed his conviction that the two governments will inensify their cooperation in the direction of strengthening the common European future.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis

    [03] Papandreou criticised PM

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou described ND's policy on education as an "extremely class-based policy" and accused the Prime Minister of "living on another planet, giving pretty descriptions of ND's supposedly immense work, while in reality nothing of that is true".

    He said that PASOK championed a new leap for the young generation, while charging that the new social security bill being passed by the government would create a "labour Middle Ages", which he pledged his party would abolish when it took over the government.

    "With your bill, there will be no ability for serious pensions, but fear, particularly among the youth, with uninsured work, without payment and overtime. You are bombarding the young general with insecurity," Papandreou said, adding that his party had a specific proposal to put forth, one beginning at birth, up to 26 years of age, with the creation of provisions for four years of financing with full social security from state dispensation".

    Papandreou further criticised the Left's stance on controversial Article 16 of the Constitution, stressing that efforts should focus on upgrading public universities, and adding that an absolute priority was to solve the issue of their autonomy, with full self-administration but subject to evaluation.

    Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou. ANA-MPA/PANTELIS SAITAS

    [04] Exhibition for the disabled

    The largest exhibition of products and services for the disabled, rehabilitation, special education, independent living and culture will open at Athens' Stadium of Peace and Friendship, the most accessible place in Greece, on May 16. Autonomia Expo is much more than the usual exhibition of products and services constituting a great celebration of disability seen as an experience defined by living terms and conditions different than the ordinary. It offers a unique opportunity to thousands of people to present or be informed on new and traditional technologies and accessible ways of life. Conferences and seminars will also be held to present latest scientific developments on multiple sclerosis and paralysis in general. Caption: ANA-MPA file photo /VANGELIS VARDOULAKIS

    [05] Kalamata liberation anniversary

    Celebrations in Kalamata marking the 187th anniversary of the city's liberation from Ottoman rule culminated Sunday night with an official dinner in honour of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias hosted by Kalamata mayor Panagiotis Nikas, which was also attended by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, agricultural development minister Alexandros Kontols representing the government, deputy employment and social solidarity minister Sophia Kalantzakou, MPs from the prefecture, Messinia prefect Dimitris Drakos, and local municipal and prefectural authorities.

    Addressing the President, Nikas and Drakos thanked him for honoring the event with his presence, stressing that Kalamata's liberation meant a lot for the liberation struggle, as Kalamata was the first city to rid itself of the Turkish yoke.

    In his return address, Papoulias said that the anniversary celebration "fills our hearts with strength and passion for the safeguarding and preservation of our freedom".

    In honoring all those heroes who fought for the national dignity and independence, one must draw from their sacrifices the necessary teachings to carry on, in these difficult times, on the steadfast national course, Papoulias added.

    The President said that a catalytical factor in the 1821 Revolution was "the faith in the sacredness of the struggle, and the power of the passion inspired by the justness of that struggle".

    "It is our obligation to safeguard and make use of this precious heritage. It is our obligation to be prepared for sacrifices, individual and collective, to face the difficult circumstances today, and to prove that we are conscious of our country's great and historical responsibility to the future," Papoulias concluded.

    Caption: A man wearing a traditional costume during the celebrations in Kalamata for the 187th anniversary of the city's liberation.ANA-MPA/NIKITAS KOTSIARIS

    [06] Aegean Conference in Melbourne

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA - S. Hatzimanolis) The 12th International Aegean Conference will be held at the University of Melbourne on March 25-29. The conference is entitled "Dais: The Aegean Feast" and explores the context, representation and symbolic significance of feasting in the life of the ancient Mediterranean.

    It is organised by the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the University of the University of Liège and the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens. The proceedings of the conference will be published in Aegaeum. Annales d'archéologie égéenne de l'Université de Liège.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of the archaelogical site of Karthea on Kea island,central Aegean

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