Satisfaction at Olympic Village
Now just days ahead of Friday night’s Athens Olympics opening ceremony, activity is steadily rising at one of the event’s major non-competition focal points, the Olympic Village, which some 16,000 athletes and their attendant officials will call home during the Games. The early waves of contingents are already settling in after being treated to festive arrival ceremonies. First impressions of the village, or more appropriately, thoroughly equipped 120-hectare small town at the foot of Mount Parnitha on the northwestern outskirts of Athens, have been favorable. One of the village’s most seasoned guests, Agi Kasoumi, who will represent Greece for a record sixth time at the Olympics, described the village as the best she has seen. She has not missed an Olympiad since debuting at Los Angeles in 1984. «It’s large, elegant and comfortable. Individuals that will get to live here once the Paralympics are completed are fortunate,» Kasoumi said, referring to a state-sponsored housing program that will transfer 2,292 apartments to low-income families beginning in May next year. «This is an advanced community setup for Greek standards,» she added. Another early arriver at the village, Nigerian sprinter Pauline Ibeagha, a member of her country’s powerful 4x100m relay team, who is on her first Olympic outing after emerging internationally at the Manchester Commonwealth Games two years ago, described the complex as «fantastic.» The complex, built by the Labor Housing Organization at a cost of 320.5 million euros, was inaugurated on July 30. Facilities include a hospital, places of worship, a restaurant, swimming pool, a track, two gyms, and an Internet center, which has proven distinctly popular to the complex’s early arrivers as they keep in touch with the outside world ahead of competition. Two athletes found surfing at the Internet center, Irini Papathanasiou and Dimitra Theocharous, both Dutch-born-and-based members of Greece’s women’s soccer team, attributed their imminent Olympic experience to the Internet’s far-reaching capacity. Papathanasiou, the Greek team’s 23-year-old goalkeeper, said the two ended up being recruited to the national squad after responding to a classified ad aimed at foreign-based women soccer players of Greek descent, providing the team experienced players. The inclusion of the two Dutch Greeks to the Greek squad, one based on the influx of players from abroad owing to the sport’s relative unpopularity among women here, has bolstered the national team’s stature. It plays Australia, Brazil, and the USA in qualifiers.