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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-09-06

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 06/09/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece celebrates as Athens picked to host 2004 Olympics
  • Prime Minister welcomes IOC decision
  • Athens' Olympic bid committee rejoices
  • Opposition reactions
  • Reactions from abroad
  • Economy Minister reassures northern Greek businesses
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece celebrates as Athens picked to host 2004 Olympics

A jubilant Greek capital celebrated the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision yesterday to award the hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games to Athens.

Athens won in the final round with 66 votes, out of a total of 107. Rome lagged behind with 41 votes.

As soon as IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch made the announcement in Lausanne early yesterday evening, members of the delegation broke into smiles and handshakes all around, as huge television screens showed reactions around Athens.

In the Greek capital, crowds gathered outside Zappeion Hall, the Athens bid committee's headquarters, and broke into loud cheers and shouts, as balloons were released into the air.

Athens bid committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, blowing kisses to IOC members and the audience, joined Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos at the signing table with Mr. Samaranch.

"It was a victory for the Olympic ideals and the people of Greece," Ms Angelopoulos said.

A feeling of jubilation was mixed with the sense that Athens' efforts to win the Olympics bid had finally been justified, followinga bitter loss to Atlanta for the 1996 Games.

Athens had lost the bid to host the centennial Games of 1996, collecting 35 votes against Atlanta's 51. That loss was felt strongly in Greece because of the sentimental importance of holding the Games in Athens 100 years after the first modern Olympic Games were held here in 1896.

Athens seemed to pass a trial run with the World Athletics Championships early last month, apparently proving that the Greek capital could handle large international events.

Prime Minister welcomes IOC decision

Athens' victory shows that Greece is able to compete successfully in the international scene, Mr. Simitis said yesterday after the IOC decision.

Speaking from Thessaloniki, just before inaugurating the international fair, Mr. Simitis said:

"We won, this shows that Greece can, that we can win in international competitions if we prepare with seriousness and work in the right direction.

"Greece can (win) in all sectors, not just this one. And this is something we shall show these two days here in Thessaloniki.

"The Olympic Games are a great opportunity for us to strengthen our position internationally, project Greek issues, create friendships and increase our connections with all countries in the world.

"The Olympic Games are an opportunity for this country for economic projects, economic restoration, for development. They are an opportunity to show another face, Greece's cultural face and the cultural context that civilization should have.

"We won because we worked with a goal in mind and we will continue to work with a goal in mind."

Mr. Simitis was informed of the result by Sports Undersecretary Andreas Fouras, immediately calling Ms Angelopoulou to congratulate her. Mr. Simitis and Greece's delegation to Lausanne will hold a news conference at the Zappeion Hall on Sunday to field questions on Athens' successful bid to host the 2004 Games.

The delegation is due to arrive in the capital from the Swiss city at 1800- 1830 local time, shortly before the news conference is scheduled to start at around 1900 local time.

An open celebration for the public will be held at Zappeion later in the evening. Singers George Dalaras and Haris Alexiou will perform.

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday hailed the result with great satisfaction, saying the decision justified efforts made.

He said that winning the bid signalled the beginning of a seven-year effort for a successful outcome in 2004.

"We must all work decisively and consistently, coordinating our efforts under a properly researched programme, for the completion of the necessary Olympic facilities and the exemplary preparation of the games. But for our athletes there is a new period of intense preparation that will give them the ability to prove themselves in the Athens Olympics. The bid committee deserves congratulations for the success," the president's message read.

Athens' Olympic bid committee rejoices

On her part, Ms Angelopoulos-Daskalaki called on bid competitors to support Greece in hosting the Games and thanked the IOC for its support.

"We respect and admire our competitors and call on them to support our effort. It was a victory for the Olympic ideals and the people of Greece. I want to thank the IOC for the trust it showed Greece. We are giving the world an ancient message: Come and compete in peace. Please come and compete in Greece. I also want to thank Prime Minister Costas Simitis for the government's active and constant support in our efforts, and all Greek parties, which supported us wholeheartedly in our efforts. I also want to thank the Greek people because it believed in the Olympic Games," Ms Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said at a press conference following the announcement.

Mr. Fouras also expressed his congratulations to the president of the bid committee.

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou expressed his thanks to the IOC "for the honour it gave us in awarding us the bid for the Olympic Games of 2004. Not only is it an honour, but a great responsibility. We understand this and will try to show t o the world the Olympic spirit and the Greek spirit".

"As mayor of Athens, the city of the Olympic Games of 2004, I express on behalf of my city my warm thanks and congratulations to those who contributed to this victory," Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

The president of the Greek Olympic Committee and IOC delegate Lambis Nikolaou said the bid "brought us very close to other competitors and especially with our friends, the Italians. I want to thank the Greek people, and express satisfaction because I be lieve that Athens won the Olympic Games after eight years of hard work".

Opposition reactions

Political party leaders joined in the congratulations for Athens' victory, noting the symbolic importance of "the return of the Games to Greece", as they termed it, and urging the government and officials to give a fresh breath to the institution that has been criticised for having become heavily commercialised.

Today's decision is historical for Athens, Greece and all Greeks, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said in his message.

"Regardless of each one's stance up to now on the Athens bid and the reservations expressed, we are now all obliged to help towards the success of this great effort. The Olympic Games of 2004, the Athens Olympic Games, must remain in history as the best of all games," he added.

Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said in his message that the decision of the IOC to give the Games to Athens "gives rise to feelings of honour, great joy but also great sense of responsibility".

He said that this was a great challenge that Greece had to win, and it was Greece's obligation from now on to avoid the indolence that characterises us occasionally.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said the Greek people would have cause to be truly proud for the 2004 Games only if they become an arena to fight the commercial nature of the games and a starting point for upgrading sports in Greece.

The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) said it would intervene with initiatives and proposals "as a force of checks and criticism to restrict negative repercussions on the economy, the environment and regional develoment".

The objections Synaspismos had to Athens' bid had been raised before after "assessing the adverse repercussions that this choice could hold" and noted that "if all citizens and Greek government agencies are activated, they may succeed in restricting the se repercussions", the party said.

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) Dimitris Tsovolas welcomed the Olympic Games and expressed his certainty about their success.

Political Spring leader Antonis Samaras said that the historic decision of the return of the Olympic Games to Greece gives them a grandeur that only their birth country could give them.

Reactions from abroad

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, meanwhile, expressed the "joy on behalf of the Italian government and my country for the selection (of Athens) following a strong and honest competition".

He added, "With special affection, we accept the choice of the capital of a friendly Mediterranean nation to celebrate the ideals of Olympic Games which were born on Greek soil, in the dawn of our civilisation".

French PresidentJacques Chirac sent "his warmest congratulations" to his Greek counterpart Kostis Stephanopoulos , stressing that the Games are returning to their homeland.

"Certainly, with this decision the IOC bestowed Greece the befitting honour to "the country of the Olympic spirit".

Athens' victory in the race to host the 2004 Olympic Games earned several positive remarks by its rivals in the five-city contest, including the chairman of Italy's Olympic Committee (CONI) and IOC delegate Mario Pescante, who said the race for the 2004 G ames was "won by the best candidate."

Mr. Pescante said Athens' victory was due to many reasons, but mainly due to the city's excellent sports installations. However, he added that he believed "sentimental reasons also played a major factor, since the IOC memebers had refused to give Athens the 1996 Games."

The Italian official also congratulated the Greek delegation at Lausanne for its work.

According to an AFP dispatch from Abidjan, South African President Nelson Mandela last night stated that Athens deserved to be chosen as host city for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Speaking to reporters during a stop-over in the Ivory Coast, on his way to South Africa from Lausanne, where he supported his country's candidacy, Mr. Mandela congratulated Athens on its victory.

Economy Minister reassures northern Greek businesses

National Economy Minister Yannos Papantoniou reassured business circles in Thessaloniki today that the 2004 Olympic Games to be held in Athens would not be at the expense of major projects scheduled for northern Greece.

The International Olympic Committee last night in Lausanne voted Athens as the city which will stage the 2004 Olympiad.

"This does not in any way change the great emphasis and priority the government has put on northern Greece and Thessaloniki," said the minister, speaking at the general assembly of the Central Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

In particular, priority was being given to Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus with regard to projects to be carried out within the framework of the third Community Support Framework, he said.

Referring to the need for more competitiveness and productivity, Mr. Papantoniou called on Greek business owners to proceed with mergers, and "to put aside Greek egotism".

He predicted that interest rates would drop to around seven to eight percent over the next two years.

"The idea of small investments," he said, "is over for our neighbouring countries. It is now time for major investments in infrastructure projects such as transport, telecommunications and energy."

The national economy ministry, he said, was preparing a new "model" for economic transactions in the Balkans based on an orientation towards consortiums, whether between Greek businesses or with foreign firms.

He called for the support of the country's banks and other financial institutions, saying that within the next few months the ministry would be stepping up cooperation and coordination with banks.

WEATHER

Sunny weather is forecast for western Greece, Thrace, the eastern Aegean islands and Dodecanese islands with light cloud seen elsewhere. Winds northerly, moderate to strong in most parts of the country with gale force winds in the Aegean. The forecast for Athens is mainly sunny weather with temperatures ranging from 18C to 28C. Thessaloniki will be overcast with periods of sunshine. Temperatures should range from 17C to 26C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 283.563 Pound sterling 449.793 Cyprus pd 530.323 French franc 46.443 Swiss franc 190.102 German mark 156.255 Italian lira (100) 16.034 Yen (100) 234.588 Canadian dlr. 205.185 Australian dlr. 206.782 Irish Punt 418.981 Belgian franc 7.566 Finnish mark 52.179 Dutch guilder 138.751 Danish kr. 41.053 Swedish kr. 36.244 Norwegian kr. 38.051 Austrian sch. 22.206 Spanish peseta 1.853 Port. Escudo 1.542

(Y.B.)


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