Olympic plans go local

With 51 days to go before the Athens Games, local officials are preparing intensively for the world’s largest sports event and planning use of facilities once the Olympics and Paralympics are over. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday to discuss how to coordinate city functions and allocate funds during the Games. A seminar held by the federation of Attica’s municipalities and communities (TEDKNA) discussed ways to improve access to Olympic facilities spread across the Greater Athens region – and the future of the facilities. Bakoyannis reportedly pointed out to Karamanlis that the Olympics communication strategy has problems and that in her travels abroad she has found a negative climate, with the focus of foreigners on security for the Games. She suggested the creation of a serious communications center that will be able to take quick and decisive steps to improve Greece’s image ahead of the Games. Speaking at the TEDKNA seminar, Deputy Mayor Theodoros Skylakakis said Greece could still make up lost ground if municipalities managed to offer high-quality services to visitors during the Games. He said that private interests should help handle the facilities after the Games, as their annual upkeep will cost about 40 million euros. Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia bluntly declared that it was too late for seminars and that too much time had been wasted. «Fifty days before the Olympics, I believe that planting 10 trees, taking down five ugly signs, filling two potholes or painting one apartment block is worth more than 100 nice speeches,» she said. She added that if Athens had followed Barcelona’s example before the 1992 Games, coordinating all of the city’s groups and agencies, less money would have been spent and Attica and Greece would be very different. «Now we have to deal with the problem of coordination. In your municipalities, how easy is it to get to the facilities?» she asked. But Palli-Petralia promised also that the government would support municipalities in their efforts to clean their streets and improve services and access to facilities. Meanwhile, Israeli military officials said their country will play a major role in Olympics security, with its navy patrolling the Greek coast and military and intelligence officers working closely with the Greek armed forces, the US and NATO.