Soccer kicks off Olympic Games today

With the opening ceremony on Friday and the Olympic Flame due to arrive in Attica today, the first events of the Athens 2004 Olympics today appear to have been overshadowed. But the Games begin today, with soccer matches in four cities outside of Athens. Ticket sales have been picking up steadily, with a record 84,000 sold on Monday, over the previous record of 54,000 on Friday. At 6 p.m., Greece’s women’s soccer team, in its Olympic debut, will face the United States, silver medalists at Sydney 2000, in Iraklion, Crete. The women’s teams of Brazil and Australia will play in the northern city of Thessaloniki; Germany and China in the western port of Patras, and Sweden and Japan in the central port of Volos. At 8.30 p.m., Greece’s men’s team will take on Korea in a sold-out Kaftadzogleio Stadium in Thessaloniki. Tunisia faces Australia in Iraklion, Argentina plays Serbia-Montenegro in Patras, and Mali meets Mexico in Volos. Official visitors have also begun to arrive. Yesterday, former US President George H.W. Bush arrived at Athens Airport and immediately flew to Kavala in northeastern Greece on a military helicopter. There he boarded a luxury yacht belonging to the Latsis family. He is to be accompanied by his wife Barbara, President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, and Greek-American businessman Alex Spanos. The Dumara, on its virgin voyage, will also carry 20 FBI agents. Bush, who will lead the US delegation, will arrive in Piraeus tomorrow. Russian President Vladimir Putin will board another Latsis yacht in the port of Lavrion southeast of Athens tomorrow. An interesting footnote is that the former king of Greece, Constantine, an honorary IOC member, will visit his former home when he attends a reception hosted by President Costis Stephanopoulos at the Presidential Palace on Friday. On the other hand, 18 Senegalese children and some 1,000 Ghanaians have been refused visas by the Austrian and Spanish embassies which handle affairs for Greece in those countries, out of fear that they may not leave. Greek officials have refused entry to the sports ministers of Zimbabwe and Myanmar for their countries’ human rights violations.

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