LONDON -- Athens has made significant progress in ensuring that it
hosts a secure, efficient and accessible Summer Olympic Games in
2004, said Greek tourism officials speaking at the World Travel
Market and other industry events here.
"Our organizing committee is working hard to prepare for the
2004 games, [and] we are learning to work under strict deadlines in
a disciplined way," said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president
of organizer Athens 2004, at a London press event.
Still, the numbers are daunting for Greece, the European Union's
poorest member: Some 10,500 athletes from 200 countries will
compete in 28 sports at 36 venues around Athens from Aug. 13 to 19,
2004; the Paralympic Games for disabled athletes will run shortly
thereafter, from Sept. 17 to 28.
An estimated 150,000 spectators, along with 20,000 journalists,
Security remains paramount among concerns about managing the
huge crowds, which temporarily will swell Athens' population by
Some worry the return of the Olympics to Athens -- the games
were first held in Greece in 776 B.C. and were revived there in
1896 -- might prove a tempting target for terrorists.
One Greek official said he hopes the current world climate will
have calmed by the time opening ceremonies kick off.
"I hope that in that moment, everything about terrorism will
have been solved; we still have two years until the Olympics," said
Yannis Patellis, president of the Greek National Tourism
Organization, citing antiterrorism campaigns by the U.S. and the
"Terrorism is an international question, not just a question for
Athens," he added, claiming the Greek capital is considered one of
Europe's safest cities.
That said, the country isn't taking any chances.
The government is devoting more than $600 million to security
planning and infrastructure; is training some 45,000 police, armed
forces and other security personnel to patrol the games; and has
signed 37 security cooperation and aid agreements with 22
"All Olympic Games have security programs; Salt Lake City [in
2002] is a good example, as it took place in the middle of a
terrorist alert," said Pantellis. "So, of course, there will be a
plan. But Greece is a peaceful country."
Some concerns also have been raised about the availability of
accommodations for the number of foreign visitors expected to
descend on Athens for the games.
But Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said Athens 2004 has the hotel and
housing situation well in hand.
Now that athlete housing has been completed, she said, every
five-star hotel in the city is undergoing renovation; housing for
foreign press is under construction; and 11 luxury cruise ships are
slated to moor at the port of Piraeus, adding 6,640 accommodations
for up to 13,280 visitors.
Among participating ships will be Cunard Line's new Queen Mary
2, set to debut in January; Royal Olympic's Olympia Voyager,
Olympia Explorer and Olympia Countess; Holland America Line's
Rotterdam and the Oosterdam, which is under construction; and Royal
Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas, which will host national Olympic
"Of course, everything is organized," said Pantellis. "The
accommodations capacity has been enlarged, and we are ready for
Greece also has undertaken a massive sports and infrastructure
Twenty-four of the eventual 36 Olympic venues have been built; a
new airport, subway and light-rail system has been constructed; and
130 miles of new or upgraded roadway will be paved in time for the