NEWS

2004 pledges for the disabled

A special interministerial meeting on the Olympic Games yesterday reiterated promises to render Athens more compatible with the needs of physically disabled people ahead of next September’s Paralympics. The government’s Olympics press spokesman, Telemachos Hytiris, told journalists efforts would be made to have most of the infrastructure in place by the end of this year, and said the government would like to secure 25 million euros in funding for another four Greek cities where Olympics events will be staged. But, eight months after the government first announced plans to make the Acropolis accessible to handicapped visitors, Hytiris was unable to announce anything more specific than that «a study is being conducted» on the matter. He added, however, that accessibility would extend to «museums, archaeological sites and areas of general cultural interest,» as well as to the new tram and urban rail networks, which are scheduled for delivery in April and June, respectively. The metro is already fully accessible, while work is under progress on the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway. «The Paralympics will be a litmus test for our culture and our sensitivity,» Hytiris said. «For us, they are as important as the Olympics.» He also promised that, in a year’s time, a new fleet of taxis exclusively catering to the needs of handicapped people will be in operation, along with some 400 new buses and minibuses allowing access to the disabled. And the government will urge most Athens hotels to install facilities for the disabled. The Paralympics will cost Greece 50 million euros. Tomorrow, the interministerial committee is to discuss the cost of the Olympics. Meanwhile yesterday, the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee announced minor changes in its organizational structure.