Shows from north to south to start 2004 countdown

A number of musical events planned for various cities tomorrow, timed to take place exactly one year ahead of next summer’s opening ceremony at the Athens Olympics, were intended as more of a festive occasion marking the start of the 12-month countdown that will lead to showtime next August 13. But, considering the mishaps early in the series of Olympic test events being held this month, and the trickle of bad publicity that has leaked through, tomorrow’s performances will also be about brightening dampened spirits as the first of 365 strides, one a day, is taken. There was the heavily publicized and unsettling salmonella bug drama that incapacitated an entire team of German rowers, plus squad officials, who had been set to compete in the World Junior Rowing Championships at Schinias last week. An inquiry is still in progress, with the Athens hotel food consumed presently touted as the most likely cause. More anguish, this time leaving organizers feeling helpless, was caused by nature itself, as roaring winds out at the rowing venue on the outskirts of Athens disrupted the competition. Beyond these early warning signs that highlight how fragile a sense of control over progress, or even perceived achievement, can be, there’s the uphill infrastructure battle as development of delayed Olympic projects rocks – or punk rocks – around the clock for timely completion. Amid all this, Athens 2004, the Olympics’ organizing committee, has assembled a cast of top-selling local acts, including Alkistis Protospalti, Dimitra Galani and Stamatis Kraounakis, for performances in four cities – not including Athens – from north to south, these being Iraklion, Patras, Thessaloniki and Volos. With polls showing that citizens of provincial cities and other peripheral regions feel entirely neglected by the growing anticipation as the Olympics near, tomorrow’s shows could be taken as a gesture of minor consolation. In Volos, on the eastern coast of mainland Greece, rocker Lavrentis Mahairitsas will headline with Dimitris Starovas and his backing group, Kitrina Podilata, filling in the support slot. In Patras, at the western city’s docks, Kraounakis, a colorful stage entertainer with a penchant for vaudeville-type entertainment, and, nowadays, also a lively, almost-anything-goes radio show host on 87.7 En Lefko FM, will lead a pack of performers that includes popular singer Costas Makedonas. Another experienced artist, singer Dimitra Galani, the younger Manolis Famellos, as well as relative newcomers Melina Aslanidou and Onar, a local rock group, will play at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle Square. Protopsalti, who, much like Kraounakis, a frequent collaborator of hers, likes to go overboard with extravagant shows, will offer the entertainment at the port of Iraklion on Crete. Besides her musicians, she will be joined by a thumping percussion group, Echodrasi, which should make clear to the entire port, surrounding areas, and Olympic organizers, that, during tomorrow’s performance, the Athens Olympics will be exactly 365 days away. The shows at all four locations are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.