Paralympics details in the dark

In contrast to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, for which preparations began over three years ago, the ceremonies for the Paralympic Games, to be held on September 17 and 28 respectively, are still very much in the air and subject to numerous pending loose ends. Of even greater concern is the fact that the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee has yet to comment on the issue, not even publishing who is in charge of the events. This state of uncertainty is further confirmed by the fact that a number of responsible parties in Athens 2004 refuse to make any comment, while others state quite readily that the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympics have been assigned to the French production company ECA2. Indeed, ECA2 has undertaken to design and oversee the production of the two ceremonies, following its second-place rating two years ago in a tender called by Athens 2004. In first place was the British firm Jack Morton Worldwide Ltd, which, as is widely known, was commissioned for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games currently under way. The major difference, however, is that Jack Morton Worldwide Ltd agreed to handle the production already designed by Dimitris Papaioannou and his team, while the Paralympic ceremonies have no such local production team: ECA2 was saddled with the entirety of the two events, including the concept creation, production, execution and presentation. While ECA2 is, according to Kathimerini’s information, a very well-established company that boasts of a long string of big productions worldwide, it is also true that some of the pending issues are so serious that they may very well railroad efforts to hold the two ceremonies. The most serious of these issues concerns the Greek state broadcasting company, ERT, which appears, so far at least, uninterested in broadcasting the two ceremonies in Greece or abroad – a huge oversight not just in terms of ethics, but also in terms of financial interest. The French company offered no comment on the issue of broadcasting, but neither did it say the rumors were unfounded. This stance, say other sources, is due the fact that the contract between ECA2 and Athens 2004 was still unsigned last Monday. Certain sources in Athens 2004 say the signing of the contract is simply procedural and will have no impact on preparations by the French company, which is in close touch with top officials at Athens 2004 on matters concerning content, the people involved and presentation. Sources from ECA2 have confirmed that preparations are in their final stages, further stating that the company has «offered substantial sums, out of its own purse, for the preparations, without having received any payment» – naturally enough, considering they have not signed a contract. As far as the content of the two ceremonies is concerned, very little information has been made public, save that no great superstars have been billed to perform, though there will be appearances by numerous acclaimed Greek and foreign artists, as well as some 2,000 volunteers. According to insider information, the dance parts of the ceremonies have been assigned to Greek choreographer and dancer Apostolia Papadamaki.

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