Games may be motorists’ hell

As of July 20, the capital’s long-suffering motorists will have to make do with just one lane on major Athens thoroughfares as Olympics organizers launch a series of restrictions intended to facilitate athletes, visiting officials and journalists traveling to venues during the August Games. But even worse may lie in store for residents of a city where over 2 million cars – about one for every two Athenians – cram on a daily basis into a congested road network that is further clogged by thousands of illegally parked vehicles. According to Athanassios Katartzis, the Athens 2004 organizing committee’s top official for the running of the city during the August 13-29 Games, the needs of the local population will take second seat to those of the «Olympic Family» of athletes, International Olympic Committee officials, sponsors and journalists. «Our main concern is to ensure that the Olympic Family can get around fast and safely,» he told Kathimerini. «If the results from the operation of the Olympic Ring, as of July 20, are not satisfactory, we will see what else needs to be done.» The Olympic Ring includes most of the city’s major roads, where one lane will be available for local motorists, one for public transport and the rest for the «Olympic Family.» Transportation experts say there may be a need to extend into August restrictions forcing Athenians to use their vehicles on alternate days. The president of the Association of Greek Transportation Experts, Panos Papadakos, told Kathimerini that Athens 2004 officials had shown little concern for the fate of local motorists during the Games. «One lane of Kifissias Avenue can take 1,200-1,400 cars an hour, and nobody knows what will happen to the rest,» he said. «Four years of preparations focused on the needs of the Olympic Family alone.»

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