Athens guides for Olympics

It may be the only Olympic project that will offer its services during and after the Games, and without any inconvenience or delay. The Municipality of Athens’s Volunteers Corps (the goal is to build up a team of 3,000) will provide information to visitors, and from October on will be involved in tasks such as guarding parks and helping out the city’s welfare agencies. Presenting the new scheme to the press last Tuesday, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis explained how the network was based on specially trained volunteers and supported by advanced technology. Training began Wednesday for the first 600 volunteers who have been selected. There will be 40 information kiosks strategically located around the city in central spots like Syntagma, Omonia, Pedion tou Areos, Gazi and Amerikis Square. The information kiosks, designed by Andreas Varotsos, who also designed the 2004 Olympic torch, will be staffed by volunteers who can supply information requested by visitors with the help of computers hooked up to the Internet. Another 20 information points equipped with touch screens where visitors can access the Internet to get information will be set up in places like Zappeion, Kerameikos and Karaiskaki Square. The municipality has designed 58 specific routes for volunteers throughout the seven city wards. Volunteers will patrol the route they have been allotted, providing information and offering help to visitors. The Greek mobile telephone company CosmOTE has been a major factor in the realization of this program, supplying funding of 1.25 million euros to equip and construct the kiosks. The municipality’s volunteer program is aimed mainly at students and offers participants of the city’s sports facilities. Explaining why it was important for the volunteer scheme to succeed, Bakoyannis told the press, «The strength of Athens is chiefly in its people.» She has asked Athenians to be on the front line, showing the city they love to visitors.