Unification project trimmed

Two important parts of the government’s ambitious project to link the main ancient sites of Athens in a 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) pedestrian network, while simultaneously prettifying the city center for the 2004 Olympics have been axed for the time being, officials admitted yesterday. Ioannis Kalantidis, head of Unification of the Ancient Sites of Athens SA (UASA), the company set up by the State to manage the project, told a press conference that UASA has abandoned plans to turn Vassilissis Olgas St into a pedestrian walkway, and to create what the company had billed as a «cultural park» next to the Kerameikos Cemetery by next summer. Vassilissis Olgas was to have been the first section of the pedestrian route that would have allowed walkers in the summer of 2004 to take a leisurely stroll from the reconstructed Roman stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 to the weed-covered remains of Plato’s Academy, north of the Kerameikos. In the six years since it was set up, UASA has successfully turned Dionysiou Areopagitou and Apostolou Pavlou streets into walkways. Even then, initial plans to have a tramline running down the two streets were abandoned last year, while promises to have some sort of public transport operating on the walkway have died a quiet death. The Vassilissis Olgas project fell foul of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, which was loath to lose the crucial traffic thoroughfare next to the stadium, where the Olympic marathon race will end and the archery event will be held. As for the 14-hectare Kerameikos «cultural park,» delays in the necessary expropriations preclude its completion by next summer. Kalantidis also said that plans to beautify six major ancient sites in the center had proved too «maximalist» for full implementation.