CULTURE

Athens bids for 2011 Special Olympics Summer Games

The past week was a decisive one for the Greek government’s bid to host the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, which ran a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2004. The on-site inspection committee arrived to evaluate Athens’s bid, their last stop after visiting another two candidate cities in Morocco and in the USA. The committee president, American Jimmy Karnes, and Athens bid committee head Yianna Despotopoulou, the president of Special Olympics Hellas, visited Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos, who sent the official bid letter, guaranteeing excellent organization, economic support and warm hospitality for the 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches and escorts from 172 countries, as well as the 15,000 family members who would come to the Games. Some 20,000 volunteers will be needed, all for the 14 days of the games, nine of which are competition days. The prospects are good, and Athens impressed the committee, whose other members are Vice President Ossie Kilkenny from Ireland, American Lee Todd, sportswoman and Special Olympics International board member Stacy Johnston and Norwegian Ase Torheim. If Athens succeeds, the committee will return in May to sign the contract so that Greek officials can gain experience by attending the 2007 Special Olympics in June-July in Shanghai. Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who is also a bid committee member, threw a dinner for the inspecting committee at City Hall with Despotopoulou, whose organizational flair and prestige enhanced the bid. So, good luck Athens.