NEWS

Life during the 2004 Games

A bill on store hours, traffic flow and other special arrangements for the city of Athens during the Olympic Games is still under review, according to Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who characterized reports in the press of a «city under siege» during the Games as «premature and incomplete.» According to sources, the proposal for the draft bill presented to the government by Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki on January 19 includes a ban on demonstrations and public gatherings not only in open but in enclosed areas, traffic and parking restrictions and the closure of businesses adjacent to Games venues for the duration of the Olympiad. It suggests that employees be given annual leave at that time. The proposed bill, which includes a provision for increased powers for Olympic security staff, has been seen as raising issues of restrictions on personal freedom. Without special legislation, the measures are likely to conflict with provisions of the Constitution and Article 1 of the addendum to the Treaty of Rome. Venizelos said his ministry was examining the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee’s proposals and the legislation implemented in previous Oympiads and that he would submit the draft bill in due course after holding talks with local government and other agencies to achieve «the broadest possible consensus.» Ban on demonstrations According to the Athens 2004 proposal, between August 5 and October 5, there should be a ban on public gatherings in open or enclosed areas and on protest marches in Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklion, Volos, Ancient Olympia and along the route to be followed by the Olympic torch. Exceptions should be made by applying to police for gatherings up to 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Olympic venues. It is up to the police to decide whether there is any risk to law and order. The organizing committee suggests holding negotiations as of now in order to reach a «gentlemen’s agreement» with unions and other organizations. A critical issue is the committee’s proposals for the Games’ security department (DAOA) regarding powers of arrest, investigation of individuals and the search of premises. It suggests transferring at least four public prosecutors to DAOA for the duration of the Games to supervise its work. The committee recognizes that restrictions to individual constitutional rights would only be permitted as an exception and where absolutely necessary for reasons of security, always «discreetly and with democratic sensitivity» and that any excesses would be punishable by law. The committee’s legal adviser said that restrictions to personal and professional freedoms for reasons of public security could mean closing down businesses for certain hours of the day or for days at a time, if necessary. As the State’s Legal Council ruled that as restrictions on the movement of individuals and the closing of commercial premises is forbidden by law and that homes could not be searched as a precautionary measure, the committee has proposed amending relevant articles in the penal code for the duration of the Games. Away for the duration Echoing the mood of the Sydney Games with the slogan «the city of Athens is open 24-hours a day,» the 2004 Organizing Committee suggests changes to shop and bank opening hours in the cities and towns where Olympic events are to be held. Itinerant vendors will not be allowed to enter stadiums and alcoholic drinks will not be allowed in certain venues. The committee proposes that shops and banks stay open on weekends during the Olympics and Paralympics, with no less than 25 percent of regular staff. Businesses in Olympic towns and cities employing five or more people should give half of their staff vacation, or if this is insufficient, leave without pay, between August 10 and September 3 and September 15-30, 2004. Proposals for traffic regulations include special Olympic lanes on some roads, changes in parking areas, ports and airports. Special arrangements are also suggested for the operation and supply of supermarkets in Attica and Thessaloniki for the duration of the Games. Check on advertising Using the Sydney Games as a model, Athens 2004 has presented a proposal to the prime minister and his advisers detailing what steps the Australian government took to restrict advertising. They included a limit to advertising from the air, a ban on new billboards in certain areas, a regulatory framework for excessive advertising and a complete ban on any radio or television broadcasting by unauthorized media.