Using the euro is child’s play for Nikos and Yianna

Nikos, all smiles, is in Madrid. The high-rolling 10-year-old is being chased around Europe by his classmates. Stavros overtakes him in Germany, but a late upset in Scandinavia gives Theodora victory. Euroraces, a new Greek board game, is popular with this group of fifth-graders at an elementary school in Athens. It’s even better than Monopoly, Katerina chirps as she sets up the pieces for another round. That’s a welcome response for Greece’s central bank. It created Euroraces to help familiarize Greek youngsters with the Europe Union’s new single currency, the euro. The Bank of Greece plans to distribute the game to elementary schools around the country before January 1, when euro bank notes and coins begin circulating in 12 of the EU’s 15 member states. Its always easier to learn when it’s fun, said the game’s designer, Maria Yennitsariou. Children need something that is familiar. Yennitsariou, a 35-year-old illustrator of children’s books, works in an accounts office at the Bank of Greece. Her seven-year-old son helped develop the idea for the game. The bank was impressed and is producing 50,000 copies. A series of comic books also created by Yennitsariou will go out to high schools, featuring a Greek mascot for the historic currency changeover – Eurocles the owl. The owl, representing wisdom, was stamped on the back of some ancient and modern Greek drachma coins. Europe’s oldest currency, the 2,650-year-old drachma will start being phased out on January 1, but the owl will be on the back of the one-euro coin minted in Greece. Euroraces and the comic books provide a local boost for the EU-wide campaign to spread information about the euro through television commercials, newspaper ads and leaflets to be mailed to millions of households. Having signed on to the euro bloc only at the start of 2001 – two years after the other 11 members – Greece’s government has had less time to inform its people about the new money. Greeks call the euro evro (ev-ROH) and cents lepta (lep-TA). Lucas Papademos, governor of the central bank of Greece, thinks teaching children about the euro could be important. He said the board game and comic books will help children of school age as well as their parents learn details about the euro. Monopoly has already produced euro versions of the game around Europe. In Euroraces, up to four people can play. They start in Athens with 1,000 euros and roll the die to move around the continent. Landing on a euro country – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain – gives the player a boost. Land on Denmark, Britain or Sweden – EU members taking no part in the single currency – and you lose a turn. Places like Poland and Malta, candidates to join the EU, inflict greater penalties. Each game lasts about 20 minutes. The player left with the most money wins, after a spell of shopping and sightseeing – in Finland, for instance, it’s a cruise on the lakes; in Austria a Mozart CD. Items on sale are related to the national designs displayed on the euro coins, Yennitsariou said. In Ireland, a busker plays Celtic music on the harp. In Greece, you visit the naval museum. At the school, Yianna is happy she’s missing religion class to try the new game. I’ve won 50 euros; write it down, she says. She finishes third, but doesn’t seem bothered. After the tally is announced, she shouts, Let’s play again.

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