Olympics law set out

The Culture Ministry yesterday brought legislation to Parliament sorting out the last loose ends concerning how Athens will function during the Olympic Games. The bill sets out traffic restrictions in the Olympic Ring, places limitations on a number of activities, limits outdoor advertising, allows the removal of ferry services from the port of Piraeus, allows the speedy transfer of civil servants where necessary, and keeps courts open on Saturdays. The legislation also provides for the operating licenses of Olympic facilities, with one type of license being issued for venues so as to simplify and speed up procedures. Courts in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos and Iraklion, all of whom will host Olympic sports, will be open for longer hours «in order to deal with the expected increase in crime during the Olympic Games,» the bill says. It also allows the temporary suspension of operations of shops, warehouses or industries dealing with dangerous materials if they are situated within the Olympic Ring. From July 31 to August 31, the importation, exportation and transport of explosives to and from the EU is banned. The bill also sets out simpler procedures for pulling down billboards, as the International Olympic Committee demands that only Olympic sponsors may advertise near Olympic facilities and on main thoroughfares leading to them. Fines for putting up advertisements that are not for sponsors’ products between July 15 and September 30 range between 50,000 and 100,000 euros and a jail term of at least one year. Adverts are also banned from cars, buses, taxis, the metro, trains and aerial displays. Hotels which do not honor the deals they have signed with the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for rooms for members of the «Olympic family» will be fined up to 15,000 euros. If the hotel repeats the offense it may lose its license for up to three months. The bill gives the merchant marine minister the right to transfer ferry and freight operations from Piraeus harbor to another. Ticket sales only for ships serving the nearby islands of the Saronic Gulf will be allowed at the port. The bill allows the establishment of more bus lines linking Olympic facilities. It foresees the provision of residence permits for athletes who come here earlier for training. It was not clear when the legislation would be passed.