Traffic police go flat out for Olympic Games

Greece’s traffic police have started a number of activities, from special training programs to a massive effort to bring some order to the streets of Athens’s city center and the rest of Attica, as part of preparations for the Olympic Games in the summer of 2004. Kathimerini spoke with the head of Attica’s traffic police, Panayiotis Adamidis, who detailed the measures under way and the huge problems posed by the capital’s effective transformation into a work site. Currently, 327 port officials are being trained in traffic management and in conducting vehicle checks, said Adamidis. The training program, under the aegis of the traffic police, provides two-week seminars to groups of port officials at the body’s headquarters in Athens and Piraeus. Training harbor police in traffic management was deemed necessary in view of the 2004 Olympic Games in order to eliminate scenes of chaos at the country’s ports, especially during the summer months, when the increase in the numbers of ferry passengers with cars often results in traffic congestion. The port officials who are undergoing traffic management training will be posted, for the duration of the Games, to Piraeus, to the Aghios Cosmas Olympic sailing venue and to the ports of the four other Olympic cities (Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos and Iraklion). After the Olympics, they will be assigned elsewhere, according to the country’s needs. The traffic police department is also giving seminars to 2,000 traffic police officers who serve in provincial towns and who will be transferred to Attica for the Games for more effective traffic policing and to make tackling any traffic problems easier. They will be chiefly assigned secondary duties, as they lack the experience of their Attica colleagues in dealing with large volumes of traffic. However, Adamidis said, the plethora of Olympics-related projects currently under way in Attica has, as a result, tied up large numbers of traffic police officers. Preventing and reducing traffic code violations has suffered in consequence. Specifically, an estimated 200 traffic police officers are engaged in traffic management duties daily. «Directing traffic is not the traffic police’s main mission and tying up such a large number of officers on a daily basis restricts our capacity for substantial traffic policing,» Adamidis said. As for the situation in Attica, he said it changed day by day. Projects are constantly moving ahead and roads are opened for public use section by section. Problems will exist until they are wholly completed. One example was the opening of the Western Hymettus peripheral highway. «The diversion of a large number of vehicles onto the new road brought huge changes. On Mesogeion Avenue’s lanes leaving the city, traffic has been reduced by 27.5 percent, according to the data we have. But there has been no reduction in traffic entering the city. At the same time, traffic has increased in the suburbs of Kareas and Ilioupolis, to the extent that roads with medium traffic flow now have heavy traffic, all heading for the peripheral highway. The traffic lights in these areas have not been adjusted to meet the present situation. «And they cannot be readjusted until works have been completed all over Attica. Then, the entire traffic light network will be overhauled, thus the number of traffic police officers at intersections, who are now substituting for traffic lights, will be considerably reduced.»