Athens seeks voluntary courtesy

Nearly two months after the Athens 2004 organizing committee successfully ended its search for 150,000 candidates to help as volunteers during the August Olympics, the capital’s municipal authorities yesterday launched a more modest volunteer program intended to make the city more tourist-friendly during the Games. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said she needed 3,000 people, preferably students who could speak foreign languages, to hit the city’s streets on four-hour shifts seeking visitors in need of assistance. Furthermore, 40 information kiosks will be set up, as well as 20 booths with computer-touch screens and internet access. «In 54 days from now, Athens will receive hundreds of thousands of visitors, and we are calling on the Athenians to show them the city that they love,» she told a press conference. «Our aim is for the volunteers to be scattered throughout the city center and the rest of the capital in August and September, during the Olympics and the Paralympics, to offer information and assistance to all visitors that require it.» After a slow start, the Athens 2004 volunteer program picked up quickly, attracting over 160,000 candidates in total. Out of these, 45,000 have been picked to work during the August 13-29 Olympics, and another 15,000 during the September 17-28 Paralympic Games. Bakoyannis said that the volunteer program would be expanded after the Games to address different needs. «As of October, [the volunteers] will cover new fields of activity such as guarding and protecting the city’s parks and woods, as well as offering help and support to the municipality’s welfare structure for senior citizens and children.» As an incentive, she promised free use of municipal sports facilities.