NEWS

Logistical Gordian Knot for 2004

As Athenian drivers return to the capital at the end of their August holidays, and traffic restrictions resume on Monday, they will encounter a city in full preparation for the 2004 Olympics. The preparations will culminate in the events that begin with the Olympic opening ceremonies on August 13 and end with the final day of the Paralympics on September 27. The runup to the Games and the period of their duration will cause greater problems than ever for Athenian drivers: First, they will have to negotiate roads that have been dug up for a number of major construction projects; during the Games they will face strict restrictions on where they can drive in the city, with priority being given to mass transportation and members of the «Olympic family.» Organizers expect vehicles being used by Olympics participants to travel at 60-70 km per hour (38-44 miles per hour) and Express buses at 50 km per hour (35 miles per hour). Stadiums have to fill and empty within two hours of events, meaning that the Metro, the new suburban railway, the old Piraeus-Kifissia railway line and buses will be extended to their peak capabilities. «The Olympic family will move along special lanes, while all other cars will be confined within strict limits,» Fani Dimou-Koutrouba, Athens 2004’s manager for coordinating traffic and transport authorities, told Kathimerini. Organizers estimate that during the Games, about 350,000 spectators and 110,000 members of the Olympic family will be on the move daily. «The measures that will be taken will give full priority to mass transportation,» she said. An operations center will be set up at Attica’s police headquarters, with 380 cameras feeding traffic information into 130 screens. Also, 24 electronic signboards will be set up to inform drivers on conditions on the road network. «The representatives of 10 agencies will be able to intervene and help ease congestion when problems are found,» Dimou-Koutrouba said. The Olympic Ring will be shaped by Syngrou, Amalias, V. Sofias, V. Constantinou and Kifissias avenues in the east, by Kifissos Ave in the west, by part of the Attiki Odos in the north and by part of Poseidonos Ave in the south. On these roads, buses will travel in special lanes on the right side of the road, while the left lanes will be reserved for members of the Olympic family. On other roads, priority will be given to buses, followed by Olympic family vehicles and then private cars. The Athens public bus company (ETHEL) will be introducing 21 new Olympic routes and 63 kilometers of new bus lanes for the Games. Buses will run along the Olympic Ring 24 hours a day. Visitors to and from Olympic venues will be transported for free. The bus company’s expenses for the Olympics are expected to exceed 20 million euros, said ETHEL managing director Constantinos Kokkoris. Prof. Yiannis Golias of the National Technical University of Athens said he found the estimated speeds of transport very optimistic. «I don’t believe that – even with better signposting – these roads can provide for such speeds and so the Organizing Committee should make plans with more realistic speeds, so that there are no unpleasant surprises,» he said. He noted that traffic lights will keep traffic cutting across the Olympic Ring to a minimum. «This makes it most likely that some suburbs of Athens will be cut off,» he told Kathimerini.