|Thursday, 5 December 2019|
Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 04-07-21
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 MORE TERROR SCENARIOSAthens, 21 July 2004 (14:39 UTC+2)
The US newspapers returned with new articles on the issue of the Olympic Games security. Just 23 days before the Olympic Games in Athens a New York Times report mentions that the govenments of Greece and the United States have reached an agreement allowing US commandos to come to the Greek capital to protect the US Olympic team.
The sole responsibility for the securiy of the Olympic Games and the sports missions of the countries competing in the Olympic Games lays with the Greek authorities, stressed one more time Minister of Public Order Giorgos Voulgarakis.
The Greek Minister of Public Order commenting on articles that appeared today in foreign media stated:
It`s impossible for me to follow the daily and contradictory leaks from certain circles or officials that apparently will become more frequent as we get closer to the day of the official commencement of the Olympic Games. I want to stress out, once more, that:
Only the Greek Forces have the sole responsibility of the security of the Olympic Games and everything humanly possible has been done to ensure that the Games will be conducted in an absolutely secure and peaceful environment.
The request of our country for international assistance, that had been formally expressed, is clear and well known from the very first moment.
Every official visit of a country leader to a foreign country, follows a particular security protocol that is based on bilateral agreements, regardless the cause of the travel.
For the security of the Athletic Teams and missions the Greek Security Forces are solely responsible.
 THE OLYMPIC FLAME ARRIVES IN SIDIROKASTROSidirokastro, 21 July 2004 (16:10 UTC+2)
The Olympic Flame arrived in Sidirokastro, northern Greece, today continuing its journey for a 55th day. Among the people gathered to receive the flame were the 35 athletes of the Greek Badminton Olympic team, 30 of whom belong to the local team of Sidirokastro, the Greek Badminton Champion.
Yesterday, one of the high spots in the Olympic Torch Relay, involved more than 200 Torchbearers from the prefectures of Drama and Serres, most of them active or ex athletes.
Pride of place went, as was only natural, to two Greek champions - Olympic victor Dimosthenis Tabakos and Euro 2004 goalscorer Angelos Haristeas. As the last Torchbearer, Tambakos lit the Olympic altar in Serres' Eleftherias Square, with Haristeas looking on. Also applauded was weightlifting star Ioannis Tsintzaris, who had just missed the bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics.
The number of sporting personalities in the Olympic Torch Relay also showed the important part the border prefectures of Drama and Serres have played in Greek sports over the years.
Dimosthenis Tabakos was out training hard in the morning as usual, ahead of the Olympic Games.
For me the Flame is on its own a message of unity and peace. Our job is just to carry it along. I was also a Torchbearer in 2000 and I know that the feeling of carrying the flame defies description. It's one of the most powerful moments of my life, he said.
Angelos Haristeas interrupted his holidays to keep this important date in his native city.
Actress Theofania Papathoma was the next-to-last torchbearer for the prefecture of Serres. She said that this was one role that she would never forget.
Ioannis Tsintzaris, a son of Serres, and one of the greats in Greek sports history, wanted to relive the wonderful moments that the Olympics have to offer. He appeared twice in the Olympic Games, first in Los Angeles in 1984, finishing fourth, and then in Seoul in 1988.
Sixty-year-old Giorgos Bitsidis, also from Serres, was for many years a footballer in the Greek premier division and was selected for the national team when playing for the local club. This is a special moment, he told us. I think everyone would feel this emotion because carrying the Torch of culture is no small matter. The Olympic Games are the most significant event that our Greek forebears ever created and spread throughout the world. Their spirit must always reign in all our souls.
Sixty five-year-old athletics veteran Vasilis Pitsios, champion triple jumper in the Balkan Games, vividly analysed his emotions. I honestly feel 'the joy of communion', metaphorically speaking, he said, and it is an intense feeling. I think what we are looking and aiming to do is to establish the institution of the Olympic Truce which actually occurred in ancient times.
Stavroula Konstandinidou of Drama, who broke the Greek record for the 800 and 1500 metres no fewer than fourteen times in the course of her career, wanted to feel the scent of the Games. She said she couldn't be away from the Olympic celebration.
Giorgos Makaras of Serres has played for the Greek junior men's basketball team 110 times and for the senior men's team 19 times, and has won a Balkan championship. He told us that though he has changed into various different strips in the course of his career, one thing he would never exchange was his place in the Torch Relay.
Ioanna Parcha, of Drama, is a javelin specialist in the national Athletics team. She has come first in the Student Games five times and has set Greek junior and colts records.
Asterios Drogalas, of Nigrita, has twice won the Greek skiing championship. He said this was the only way he could find of taking part in a Summer Olympic Games!
As 15-year-old Nikolaos Hatzidis, a 100 metres sprinter, ran in the Torch Relay, but was dreaming of actually competing in the Olympic Games.
The runners in the Torch Relay also included many celebrities from sports that are not on the Olympic programme.
For example, Chryssa Stergiakou, of Prosotsani, is a climber who has won Greek and Balkan championships. Climbing is not yet an Olympic sport, and this was why she decided she must take part in the Torch Relay.
Kyriaki Goutioudi, of Serres, was the national girl's chess champion in chess in 1999, and runner-up in 2001 and 2003. She wanted to join in the Olympic Games and her best shot was carrying the Flame.
The outstanding example of human willpower today was from Pantelis Keskinidis, of Serres, an athlete with disability. His intention in taking part was to give other people with a disability new courage and strength.
There was also food for thought in the appearance by Konstantinos Petridis, from Lavrio in Attica. At the age of 39 (he told us) he weighed 110 kg and smoked 60 or 70 cigarettes a day. After managing to cut down on both weight and smoking he ran to the finish in the classic Marathon, at the age of 41, showing what can be achieved with strong will. The day of the Marathon joins his children's birthdays as the most important dates of his life. He was very to be running in today's Torch Relay.
It was the third time Charalambos Sdrolas, of Drama, had participated in the Olympic Torch Relay: he had previously done so in 1972 and 2000. I didn't want to miss out on this unique feeling, especially as this time that the Flame's final destination will be the Olympic Stadium in Athens, he said.
Sixteen-year-old student Thomas Vislis, of Alistrati, said he had been stressed for the past two days. I want the Olympic Games in Greece to be the best and all the Greeks to help in this great celebration of humanity.
Another 16-year-old student, Dimitris Pagonas, of Nea Zichni, did not hide his excitement and said he was proud to be a Torchbearer today. Holding the Flame is honestly a unique and sacred gift. I hope that the Olympic Flame, after having been around the world, gives the message of unity. And we should not forget that for unity to exist, peace must also exist.
Thirty seven-year-old teacher of Olympic education Stavros Tseberis, of Nea Zichni, came into the chain of the Torch Relay sleepless. I was tossing and turning all last night, he told us after kindling the Olympic altar in his Prefecture.
Along the Olympic Torch Relay, a crowd of all ages awaited the Flame in the sweltering heat of 40-42 degrees. Even more impressive is the fact that many older people had taken out chairs from their home and patiently awaited the passing of the Torchbearers.
In all prefectures there was an appropriate festive atmosphere as the Flame was greeted with local dances and songs. Often the Torchbearers were pelted with rose petals, and the streets were strewn with olive branches and flowers. Everywhere young children joined in the celebrations with evident excitement.
At Nea Zichni there was a wrestling match, a speciality of this area, staged by a local club in cooperation with the prefecture authorities. Wrestlers smeared in olive oil and wearing the leather loincloths known as kiouspetia - two elements common to the ancient Olympic Games - grappling with one another. The Torchbearers were accompanied, as they entered and left the prefecture, by an escort of sixty in folk dress. After the Fame had departed, celebrations in the prefecture went on well into the night, with dancing and folk music performed by a local group and a band from Serbia.
In Serres, 200 members of the Cultural Association in folk dress danced in the main square, where there was a huge crowd to welcome the Flame. The five Olympic rings were represented by fifty dancers in formation, in front of the Olympic altar, and pupils danced to the music of local songs sung by Nitsa Tsiarta. After this there were dancing by Vlach groups, songs of Thrace, and the pyrrich (sword-dance) performed by the local Association of Greeks from Pontus.
After the kindling of the Olympic cauldron, young children released 100 doves. Members of the Serres Music Workshop played the Greek national anthem. A fireworks spectacular followed and the festivities ended with a Greek music concert.
 NEW DRAFT LAW ON PUBLIC ADMINISTRATIONAthens, 21 July 2004 (13:29 UTC+2)
Strong disagreement between the govenrment and the opposition erupted on the first day of the discussion on the Public Administration draft law held in the responsible Parliament Committee yesterday.
The disagreement concerned the clauses on public employees' seniority issues. The opposition accused the government of attempting to bring back the party state.
The public sector directors will be evaluated based on merit, responded Minister of Interior Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
The representatives of the public employees' union, ADEDY, expressed their opposition to the draft law characterizing it as a legislative intervention reminding old party politics and presented their own proposals on the public sector employees' evaluation.
 "OLYMPIC TRUCE" ON PRICESAthens, 21 July 2004 (14:07 UTC+2)
Minister of Development Dimitris Sioufas announced after a meeting he had with 22 market representatives that strict inspections will take place aimed at keeping prices under control during the Olympic Games.
A market inspection team will be formed by the ministry and the market representatives to inspect market operation and intervene in cases of profiteering.
 MARGINAL LOSSES IN THE ASEAthens, 21 July 2004 (17:21 UTC+2)
Marginal losses were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index dropped to -0.16% at 2348.86 points, while the volume of transactions was small at 82.6 million euros.
Of the stocks trading today, 87 had gains and 184 had losses, while the value of 131 stocks remained unchanged.
 PRESS REPORTS ON THE ALLEGED ABUSE OF STRAY ANIMALS ARE BEING DENIEDAthens, 21 July 2004 (17:13 UTC+2)
Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food Alexandros Kontos denied British press reports on the alleged abuse of stray animals characterizing them as ill-intentioned, malign and unfounded aimed at hurting Greece in view of the Olympic Games.
Mr. Kontos stated that he was very surprised to be informed of British press reports according to which, stray dogs are being killed in Greece. He stressed that he categorically denies these reports aimed at defaming Greece in view of the Olympic Games.
 THE DEFENSE MINISTER ON THE RENEGOTIATION OF THE RUSSIAN TOR-M1 AGREEMENTAthens, 21 July 2004 (16:45 UTC+2)
Minister of Defense Spilios Spiliotopoulos announced today the successful completion of the renegotiation of the agreement on the purchase of the Russian-made TOR-M1 anti-aircraft systems.
Based on the agreement, the Greek armed forces will receive an additional US$ 106 million worth defense material from Russia as a countervailing benefit to compensate for the Greek taxpayers' money lost in scandalous contracts signed under the government of PASOK, while the anti-aircraft systems purchased will be fully linked with the Greek air defense network, according to a statement issued by the Greek Minister of Defense.
 THE FOREIGN MINISTRY ON THE ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTER IN ATHENSAthens, 21 July 2004 (16:28 UTC+2)
There is a clear political will regarding the operation of the Islamic Cultural Center in Athens based on its founding charter, stated Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos.
Greece has for some years now taken the political decision to facilitate the creation of an Islamic Cultural Center in Athens, which will include a space where Muslims visiting or living in Athens can fulfill the duties and needs of their faith.
We are announcing today that the complex legal and bureaucratic processes are in the final stages.
There is a clear political will to complete these final adjustments in the immediate future, so that the Islamic Cultural Center of Athens can begin functioning in the manner provided for by its charter.
The body responsible for the administration of the construction and functioning of the Center will be a private law body corporate of the civil code, which will be under the control and supervision of the Greek state, while funding for the project has been undertaken by the government of Saudi Arabia.
 SKANDALAKIS MET WITH THE SAE-EUROPE COORDINATORAthens, 21 July 2004 (14:58 UTC+2)
Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis met with Council for Greeks Abroad, SAE, Vice-President and European region coordinator Angelos Aslanidis in Athens and was briefed on the conclusions and decisions reached in the Coordinating Council meeting held in Thessaloniki on July 3-4.
Among others, Mr. Aslanidis requested that a dialogue should be opened with the organizations of the Greeks living in the united Europe on issues concerning the education of Greeks abroad. They also discussed the issue of education in the Black Sea countries and the existing problems.