New ministers roll up their sleeves and hit the streets

Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia is a nomad, with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the helm of the ministry giving priority to getting projects for the Olympic Games delivered in record time. From dawn to dusk, Palli-Petralia is out and about, visiting various work sites. Immediately after being sworn in at the Presidential Palace in the presence of President Costis Stephanopoulos on Thursday morning, she made a statement about the famous roof for the Olympic stadium, designed by Santiago Calatrava, and what stage it had reached. «We’re just going to make it,» she said, «if there are no problems on April 18, when the landslide test is done…» she added, without finishing the sentence. The marathon route put Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and Deputy Minister Themistoklis Xanthopoulos on the streets on the very first day they took office. Kathimerini cartoonist Andreas Petroulakis commented in his own fashion on the state of preparedness for the marathon event. Transport Minister Michalis Liapis, a first cousin of the prime minister, also hit the road to see the progress of the tramway and suburban railway. Of the infrastructure for transporting thousands of visitors, only the metro is in operation. «My cousin gives me the tough jobs because he knows I can do them best,» quipped Liapis. Dimitris Avramopoulos, formerly a diplomat and Athens mayor and now tourism minister, who had announced he was «homeless» (the ministry’s offices were in the Army Fund building, which is undergoing refurbishment), is now the «guest» of Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who came out to Mesogeion Avenue to show him his offices. In her very first speech, applauded by the 163 who voted for her (apparently two ND deputies wanted the post for themselves), Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki described the Olympic Games as a national issue and top priority for all parties. The ceremony for the lighting of the Olympic flame will take place on the March 25 national holiday, which is also the Feast of the Annunciation and the anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. This is the only project to be delivered ahead of time, because the flame has to go around the world and return to Athens on August 13. For all the other projects, ministers are racing against the clock.

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