People and prospects at the Thessaloniki fair

Thessaloniki is at a fever pitch with the opening of the International Fair, which Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis inaugurated yesterday. Decked with flags and banners, and a strong police presence, boosted by reinforcements from Athens to avert any trouble from the usual protests that take place no matter who is in power, Thessaloniki is in the midst of a frenetic three-day event. Interest centers on this evening’s speech by Karamanlis at a dinner at 8 p.m. at the Vellidieo building by fair President Dimitris Bakatselos and Helexpo President Aristotelis Thomopoulos and sponsored by the National Bank of Greece (NBG). NBG President Takis Arapoglou is already there, as are the heads of the other Greek banks, who meet at the Vellidieo, the Makedonia Hotel -which looks out over the Thermaic Gulf – and the Electra in Aristotelous Square, where Greek and foreign entrepreneurs, ministers and, of course, journalists congregate. On Sunday, at the congress center at 1 p.m., the premier’s press conference with Greek and foreign media will be broadcast live. Karamanlis will answer questions on all the hot political, economic and social topics. After the press conference there will be a reception in honor of the local and international press. Last year the opening of the fair was overshadowed by the tragic crash of a Chinook helicopter, causing the death of Petros, the patriarch of Alexandria, those accompanying him and the crew. Only the scheduled speech and press conference took place and the receptions were canceled as a sign of mourning. This year, all being well, Thessaloniki will show off its festive face to foreign financiers and entrepreneurs who have come to the fair to see the stands, which focus on innovation in products, communication, culture, art, cinema and theater.