2004: Bands, theater and dancing

Imagine the streets of Athens inundated with musical groups from around the world, the squares full of street theater performers and jugglers, and concert halls opening their doors to famous Greek and foreign artists. Imagine the city becoming friendly to residents and visitors. It may take a leap of the imagination to see it, but a great effort is in progress in view of the Olympic Games in August to turn Athens into a hospitable host. Given the circumstances, the organizers of the Games are focusing their attention on security and getting the major projects completed in time, but the Athenian nights of the Olympics are not long in coming. Athens Municipality The leader in this effort is the Municipality of Athens, which has a number of proposals to liven up the city. Apart from two major events before and after the Games – details of which are being kept secret so as not to spoil the surprise – more than 30 bands from around the world will set up in the center of town and play from 8.30 p.m. till late at night. «The experience from other Olympic cities shows that after spending all day in the stadium, spectators don’t want to spend their evening sitting down in a theater or anywhere else but would prefer to wander freely about town,» Deputy Mayor Panos Loukakos, who is responsible for the city’s cultural events, told Kathimerini. So the authorities looked for ways of injecting interest downtown. «Every 1,500 meters, there’ll be music groups from Greece and other countries such as Brazil, Chile, Italy, Turkey and Britain that will play music until 2 a.m. What’s more, all over the center of Athens, there’ll be street theater and jugglers who’ll brighten up the city,» said Loukakos. The Culture Ministry is undertaking a similar initiative, though the exact program has not been determined. Sources say that ministry officials are planning a number of events, to be held concurrently with the athletic competitions. «The aim of the cultural events would be to combine ancient Greek spirit with modern art and culture,» they said. Ministry sources swear that the program, yet to be announced, will be a pleasant surprise for the inhabitants of the capital as well as the thousands of Greek and foreign visitors. For the organizing committee, Athens 2004, the overriding aim is to have all the Olympic projects ready on time. But its admittedly overambitious cultural program is in danger of falling victim to the accelerated pace of work and attempts to curb costs. Reliable sources say a merger of the two cultural programs – that of Athens 2004 and the Culture Ministry’s – is being examined. Olympic squares – which would have been created in the Military Park at Goudi and Zappeion – have been axed. The only one to have been saved, for now, is that at Nerou Square, at the end of the Faliron Delta esplanade. But small events arranged under the aegis of Athens 2004 will take place along seven Olympic routes in the city center.

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