NEWS

Athens will be dressed to the nines to welcome Olympic Games visitors in the month of August

Three thousand volunteers, over 6,000 municipal staff, a fleet of vehicles, 1,500 renovated buildings along main thoroughfares, 70,000 meters of well-constructed, accessible sidewalks, 150 kilometers (93 miles) of safe, well-maintained roads, 6,500 large trees and tens of thousands of shrubs planted all around the city, 10 renovated central squares, 60 information booths, 17 historical and cultural walking routes specially prepared to take Olympic visitors through Athens’s past and present and, most important of all, 1,450 cultural events comprise the Olympic face of Athens as it moves into the international spotlight in August. The heart of the Olympic Games will be beating at the sporting venues until 8 p.m. every night. After that, the center of action will shift to at least 35 places scattered around this welcoming city, where the host, the city of Athens, will, for over two weeks, be entertaining the hundreds of thousands of visitors with a plethora of well-organized events. And Athens is getting dressed up for the occasion. The municipality wants the city to look its best for the cameras that will be linked to all corners of the globe, so that those who come will want to return and those who see it from afar will want to plan a trip in the future. During the time that remains until the Games the following projects are expected to be completed: – Restoration of the facades of buildings along the main roads. – Renovation of the city’s main squares. – Accessibility for the disabled. – Roadworks throughout the city, not only in the center. Buildings and parks In practice, this means that in a month’s time, renovation work on 1,500 building facades will have been completed in central districts such as Kolonaki, Victoria Square, Pangrati, Amerikis Square and along main avenues such as Acharnon and Patission. About 150 sidewalks are being repaired, with the addition of ramps for the disabled, special surfaces to guide the blind and measures to prevent people parking their cars on intersections and pedestrian crossings. Since the city also needs some color, about half a million annuals are to be added to the 6,500 trees and thousands of shrubs already planted. The city’s image is the first challenge for City Hall, the second is the way the city functions – traffic, parking, shopping hours and facilities for visitors. Many of these arrangements have already been announced – parking restrictions on main roads including those within the Olympic Ring. Two of the Olympic sporting venues, Goudi and the Panathenaic Stadium, fall within the Athens municipal boundary. Ace up its sleeve The greatest challenge, however, will be to present the image of a lively city where visitors can enjoy themselves at celebratory events worthy of the greatest sporting event on earth. Municipal officials say this in fact is the «ace up their sleeve,» with many surprises in store. These include events with the participation of the entire country, over 50 foreign embassies, the creme de la creme of Greek and foreign entertainers and many of the country’s cultural organizations, at sites reaching from Philopappou Hill to the Rizari Park and Ambelokipi and from Pedion tou Areos to Omonia and Gazi. The city is getting ready to announce a two-week program of around five hours of entertainment daily, with something happening every 1,500 meters. Although still unannounced, the program is certain to include theater, music and the visual arts. Events will not be restricted to specific venues, however, and in cooperation with the Foundation of the Hellenic World, the municipality is preparing an historical and cultural guide to the city which will take visitors through the city on foot, by means of 17 routes of particular interest not only to those familiar with the city’s history, but to first-timers. Thousands of volunteers equipped with computers will man some 40 information booths, in addition to another 20 electronic booths, at busy parts of the city, with a focus on Syntagma Square, Plaka, Thiseion, Kolonaki, Pangrati and Exarchia. Two giant video walls will be set up in the city to broadcast the Games events. To complete the picture, the city will also be dressed up the nines with a variety of decoration measures.