PM: ‘Everything ready’

Nine days ahead of the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics, Greece is fine-tuning its security measures while organizers have regained hope that the great majority of the tickets will be sold, as Greeks have gone into a late buying spree. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who toured the main Olympic sports complex yesterday, along with chief Games organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, declared that Athens was now «fully prepared» to host the Olympics. «We are fully ready and, because of that, we are optimistic. All together, we made it to this point. All together, we will succeed in our main goal: to organize exceptional Games, under conditions of maximum security,» Karamanlis said. Earlier yesterday, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, along with Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, praised «the greatest peacetime contribution by armed forces» and their role in the largest-ever security operation during an Olympics. A total of 53,363 armed forces personnel are involved in the security operations. A «security shield» of 234 military aircraft, 51 navy ships and 28 anti-aircraft systems batteries have been deployed, said Lieutenant-General Vassilis Yiannopoulos, who leads the security operation, code-named Ifitos. NATO is assisting the operation with naval, air, biochemical and nuclear warfare units. Yesterday, Spiliotopoulos discussed cooperation issues with the head of NATO’s Southern Command, Admiral Gregory Johnson. Security measures were tightened yesterday at Greece’s two major ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki. Piraeus port will be closed today from 10 to 11.30 a.m. as a minesweeper scours the coast and the Saronic Gulf. Many of the top VIPs, including French President Jacques Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin and ex-US President George Bush, will stay on cruise ships berthed in the port. Port authorities said all measures «operated correctly.» Athens 2004, the Games organizers, announced yesterday that 38,000 tickets were sold yesterday, bringing the total sold to 2.2 million sold out of 5.2 million available. «We are very, very pleased with how ticket sales have proceeded over the past weeks,» spokesman Michalis Zacharatos told reporters.

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