NEWS

Olympic test begins

With the Games due to start in 11 days, Athens is quickly beginning to transform itself into an Olympic city, welcoming athletes from all over the world while its own residents begin to get accustomed with the traffic restrictions and other changes to their daily lives. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, told Kathimerini in an interview that this was the period in which all necessary changes would be made. «The big test will be during the Olympics,» she told Kathimerini’s Sunday edition. «Hour by hour, the difference in the venues and the level of preparation is already apparent,» she said. «We can make quick decisions and fix anything that crops up. Even if the venues had been delivered two years ago, we would still have had to work up until the last minute. There is always a more perfect solution. We want to attend to the final details,» she added. «Already, with the first journalists coming to the press village and the first athletes, we are being judged,» said Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. «The big test will be on August 13.» Traffic restrictions, including lanes reserved for a large fleet of Olympic Family vehicles and limits on where cars may enter or park near stadiums, came into effect yesterday. Police said that things went smoothly. But a Sunday afternoon in August is not a good gauge of traffic in Athens and the full effect of the measures is expected to be felt today. Main avenues such as Kifissias and Vassilissis Sofias could face problems as cars, trucks and taxis will be sandwiched between the orange-marked Olympic lanes on the left and the regular, yellow-line bus lanes on the right. In many places this will allow a single lane for cars and taxis. The Olympic lanes are in effect from 6.30 a.m. to midnight. Officials say that this is a test period and some changes might be made to the traffic restrictions before the Games, if necessary. The target is to keep the Olympic fleet’s 1,284 buses and 3,350 cars moving along at an average speed of 60 kilometers an hour, both for scheduling reasons and security. Other measures that come into effect today are the shopping hours of regular stores (not those aimed primarily at the tourist market) which will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays during the Olympics. They will be closed on Sundays. Also, several hospitals that will serve Olympic needs began operating on a 24-hour basis today.