Village, roads ready

The Olympic Village, the biggest construction project of the 2004 Athens Olympics, and two major road sections were inaugurated yesterday. Located at the foot of Mt Parnitha, northwest of central Athens, the 120-hectare Olympic Village will open its gates to some 16,000 athletes and team officials on July 30. The village was built by the Labor Housing Organization at a cost of 320.5 million euros and its 2,292 apartments will be transferred to low-income families beginning in May 2005. It contains a hospital, drug test center, places of worship, a restaurant, a swimming pool, a track and two gyms, but little greenery. As Employment Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos remarked yesterday, a lot of effort was made over the past two years to complete construction on time. The 5-kilometer road connecting the Olympic Village to the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway was inaugurated yesterday morning by Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias. Souflias, a civil engineer, praised the construction team for the quality of the project, which includes a 300-meter bridge, and the efforts made to minimize environmental damage. Earlier, Souflias had inaugurated what he called «the third most important transport project in the Athens region» after the metro and the Attiki Odos highway, a 3.15-kilometer extension of Kifissou Avenue toward Neo Faliron. The section is essentially a long bridge ending in a complex maze of intersections that is expected to greatly facilitate connections between Athens’s seaside suburbs and the two major highways leading to the north and the Peloponnese. Souflias also remarked that this project «is also a very important anti-flooding project» that would prevent the flooding of several suburbs along the Kifissos River. Some of the intersection’s exits were not ready but are expected to be so during the next few days. This section completes the so-called «Olympic ring» that will be crucial to the rapid movement of athletes and officials. A dissenting note was sounded by Panos Papadakos, the president of the Association of Greek Transport Engineers, who regretted the lack of a coordinated transport policy that would alleviate traffic congestion and the abandonment of some necessary road projects.