This year’s 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday, aims to promote the city as a center with a Balkan regional role, officials said yesterday. «The 70th TIF inaugurates Helexpo’s (the organizers) new strategic planning with activities aimed at casting Thessaloniki as an international exposition hub for the Balkans, where Greece has strong economic, cultural, religious and political ties,» Helexpo’s president Aristotelis Thomopoulos told a press briefing. According to the new strategy, the expositions, which include sectoral industry events in succession for most of the year, will place emphasis on emerging markets, and their countries will be given a privileged status as «Helexpo Countries.» The 70th TIF, which will open to the public on Saturday morning with the slogan «Around the World in 10 Days,» hosts 833 direct and 237 indirect exhibitors from 29 countries. The official country participations have gone up to 21 from 13 last year and include Egypt, Armenia, Bulgaria, Brazil, France, Germany, the USA, Japan, Italy, Israel, India, Indonesia, Cyprus, Hungary, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovakia, Syria and Turkey. TIF features six special themes: Auto Land, for 4×4 cars, with stuntmen and possible test drives; DiGILAND, with new digital technology and communication products; Fashion Forward, with seven days of shows by top Greek designers; Decoland, for decoration and gift items; White House, for white electrical goods and appliances; and Stateland, where government organizations and agencies present new services to citizens. Additionally, Game Land and Play Land will be two areas specially designed for children’s shows and creative activities, while two pavilions will be devoted to the Greek song festival. TIF’s First International Business Conference will take place September 14-16, while the special Global Exchange event will offer Greek and foreign businessmen the opportunity to foster closer ties. The 5-euro ticket to TIF also secures entry to all events, including the fashion show and a number of cultural and entertainment activities.