SPORTS

Athens mayor launches 2004 promotional tour

PARIS (AFP) – Just short of 100 days before the start of the Olympic Games, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis brushed aside security concerns and promised a huge party for visitors to the Games in August. Bakoyannis began an international tour here yesterday to promote the charms of the Greek capital. With the Games dogged by negative publicity over building delays and security concerns, Bakoyannis said that Greece had suffered from the fallout of the terrorist threat following the events of September 11, 2001. But she stressed that all those concerns would be forgotten after the giant party that the inhabitants of the Greek capital intend to throw for the world when the Games begin on August 13. «It’s the first major event since September 11. The international press are therefore looking to create worries,» Bakoyannis told AFP. «They are examining Greece with a critical eye. But looking at what was written about Sydney before the Games, we feel much better. It’s easy to exaggerate the security concerns. It’s important to have a good balance between quality of life and security. Athens will be a city of joy and partying,» the Athens mayor said. Bakoyannis said that the controversial roof on the main stadium, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, would be ready on time and that 90 percent of the Olympic venues had already been completed. «There remains the stadium roof and the 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) marathon route, which have had delays, but on which we are working. It will be finished,» insisted Bakoyannis. Enthusing on the charms of the Greek capital, Bakoyannis said that Athens had everything to offer the visitor. «The quality of life, it’s that of the city of Athens, that of the sea. We don’t need much help to have a very good way of life. Three thousand volunteers will be on hand to welcome visitors, to show them the town, to make life easier and answer all questions. We’re known in Greece for our hospitality and we’re going to keep this reputation.» And Athens will be the most secure city in the world during the Games, she insisted. «We have spent three times the budget of Sydney – $800 million solely on security. Some 45,000 highly trained police and soldiers will be mobilized. We also have the umbrella of NATO,» she said. NATO will provide air and sea surveillance to protect the Olympics from chemical, biological or radiological attack.