Media nerve center for Olympic Games nearing completion

The Athens Olympics open on August 13, 2004, but they actually begin two days earlier with the soccer preliminaries. Even earlier, on July 13, the new Main Press Center opens its doors to 5,500 accredited press journalists and photographers from around the world. As of July 27, the MPC will operate around the clock, closing on September 3. Six days later, the operation moves to the Press Center at the main Olympic Stadium (OAKA) where the Paralympics are to begin on September 10. The MPC’s head of installations, Aris Nikolakis, has called the center «the world’s window on 2004.» Of its 52,000 sq.m. of space, about 10,000 sq.m. will be rented to news agencies at 5,700 euros per 25 sq.m. Already 3,000 sq.m. have been booked. The MPC comprises the existing Helexpo exhibition center, linked to two new buildings under construction since November 2001 by a Greek consortium, consisting of the firms Michaniki and Athina, for the General Sports Secretariat. According to the time schedule, the two buildings are expected to be handed over to the Athens 2004 organizing committee after October this year. Particular emphasis has been put on anti-seismic construction. Room for all The MPC is near the main Olympic Stadium (OAKA), the International Radio and Television Center, and two of the press villages. The main press conference hall will have 800 seats, with another four halls each seating 200, and three more with 50 seats but which can hold up to 150 people. The Work Area has space for 800 people and 2,500 result boards; the photographers’ area has 100 seats and 1,000 lockers. Photographers will have access to cable-TV screens, cardphones, printers, fax and photocopying machines, start lists and results. In the MPC lobby there will be a Central Service and Information Bureau and other related services, such as sales of Greek and foreign newspapers, electronic and electrical outlets, a bank,a library and a common room. A doctor and nurse will be on duty at the in-house medical center 24-hours a day, alongside a pharmacy. Other features include a 600-seat international restaurant open around the clock, and an 80-seat a la carte restaurant serving mainly Greek cuisine. Olympic News Service Info 2004, or the Olympic News Service, staffed by 200 journalists and 370 volunteers, will be providing information on everything from the bloodlines of the horses in the equestrian events to the details of the modern pentathlon. Vassilis Skountis, a distinguished journalist who heads the center, said it would be the Games’ «own news agency» which all media representatives would have access to, both at the MPC and other press centers, at the Olympic Village and the seven press villages. «Similar services have been available at previous Olympics such as in Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, but they were greatly expanded in Sydney,» he said. At Info 2004, journalists will be able to find the CVs of athletes, coaches, referees, even horses. About 20,000 of these CVs will be processed before the Games, as it is not certain which ones will be coming (a total of about 11,000) until near the opening date. The center will also provide information on all Olympiads since 1896, as well as on world and continental championships of all sports during the Olympic Cycle, that is since 2001, as well as historical, statistical and technical details on sports, other events and international federations. During the Games, the ONS will collect all results, statements by athletes and coaches after the events, press conferences, announcements and news on all events, medal tables, official announcements by the IOC and Athens 2004, and even weather reports.