NEWS

Olympic Village opens

The countdown to the Athens Games, which open in two weeks exactly, continues today with a seminal event - the opening of the Olympic Village. The arrival of each team is expected to turn into a celebration, with an arrival ceremony for each, until the Village reaches its capacity of 16,000 athletes and their attendant officials. The Village, in other words, will have the population of a small town. The last athletes are scheduled to leave by September 1. The Village opening yesterday was attended by Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, ATHOC executive director Marton Simitsek, the IOC's executive director for the Olympic Games Gilbert Felli and the many employees and volunteers who will staff the Village. During their stay, athletes and officials and will be able to rest, to exercise and to have fun. The Village will have places of worship, shops, a bank, a post office, a hairdresser, cafeterias, 24-hour restaurants, a cinema, bars and a disco, a library, and a billiards hall. Its population will fluctuate as athletes come and go at staggered intervals, but the greatest number of them are expected to be here before the opening ceremony of August 13. Team and delegation leaders began arriving from July 23 to prepare for their teams' stay. Also yesterday, the Olympic Network Control Center was presented to the press. This will cover 36 stadiums, 57 training areas, 24 non-athletic facilities (such as the Olympic Village, the International Broadcast Center, the Main Press Center, journalists' villages, and so on) in five Olympic Cities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklion and Volos). Some 470 officials and 250 technicians will be working around the clock at CosmOTE mobile operator's facilities, overseeing the national network in real time through giant screens. The demands of the Olympic period will be 10 times those of peak hours of normal days. The International Broadcast Center (IBC) is also ready. This will provide digital television images to an expected audience of some 4 billion people and will host 1,500 television commentators. Next to the IBC is the Main Press Center, to which 6,000 print journalists and photojournalists are accredited. Meanwhile, the state Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) yesterday apologized to subscribers for an 11-hour cut in northern Attica that affected 42,000 of 48,000 subscribers in the area, including phones at Olympic facilities. The fault was caused by a breakdown when OTE technicians tried to upgrade the OTE center at Kifissia. The company said this would not happen during the Games.

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