Greece looks ahead

As Greece basked in international praise in recognition of the hugely successful Olympics that Athens has hosted, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that the Games were «a watershed» and an investment in Greece’s future. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge met with Karamanlis and former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, whose government had borne the brunt of preparations, and thanked them for their contribution to the Games. Speaking to Athens 2004 organizers earlier, Rogge said that these Games would be remembered as the «dream Games» and would be a reference point for future Olympiads. At Sunday’s closing ceremony, he thanked the Greeks for «unforgettable, dream Games.» Last night, Karamanlis addressed the nation in a televised broadcast. «Greece surprised the world and showed that it can come out on top,» he said. «Thanks are due to the Greeks who, with their sacrifices, made these Games a reality.» He mentioned the contribution of the Simitis government, local government (especially Athens Municipality), ministries and private companies. «At this time, we Greeks, with our collective self-discipline and personal contribution, showed not only that we are good hosts, but we proved that we are ready to turn the page. A new chapter has begun for our society.» He said that new priorities had to include promoting the success of the Games to show that Greece can achieve its targets, attracting tourism and investments, exploiting the assets of the Olympic facilities that the Greeks had paid so much for. «We must prove that this great Greek summer was not a parenthesis. We must prove that the success of such a great and complicated undertaking is not limited to two weeks of celebrations. It is a watershed of the new era,» Karamanlis said. «It is an investment in the new period that Greece is beginning. It is capital for the years that are coming.» In a nod to the doping scandals that rocked Greece – which saw its two star sprinters pull out of the Games and a weightlifter stripped of his bronze medal – Karamanlis said, «Issues that are not in keeping with our culture and the Olympic ideals will be dealt with decisively and with a full sense of responsibility toward citizens and especially the youth.»

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