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28 March, 2001
Athens' new international airport at Spata was officially inaugurated on Tuesday by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, though the only traffic during the first day was a ceremonial OA 001 flight carrying only the crew.
Regular landings at the airport are due to begin at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and full operations are to be transferred from Hellenikon by Thursday morning.
Addressing a gathering of 3,000 dignitaries, including President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Simitis stressed that the airport had been delivered on time, meeting high specifications, with transparency and controlled cost, in accordance with public interests.
Noting that it was the result of continuous efforts by successive governments, he said it symbolized the need for common and unflagging effort for development, and said it would help make Greece a key junction for southeast Europe and the east Mediterranean in modern international transport networks.
According to the prime minister, the airport had been designed to serve 16 million passengers a year and provision had been made for further extending it in the future, since the area showed signs of becoming the center of significant development in the coming century.
Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis described the airport as a "strategic investment of 660 billion drachmas" that would support 22,000 jobs.
Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis said it would help create 1,500 jobs directly, as well as an addition 2,000 jobs per million passengers indirectly.
He said that 13 million passengers would be going through the airport in the next year to 110 destinations.
Amongst dignitaries attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony were US Ambassador Nicholas Burns, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, ATHOC chairwoman Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki airport chairman Harris Stamatopoulos, its Chief Executive Officer Dr. Matthias Mitscherlich and contractor firm Hochtief AG's chairman, Dr. Hans Peter Keitel.
Meanwhile, in view of the relocation of the Athens airport from the Hellenikon site to Spata, Attica traffic police decided to temporarily convert the Vari-Koropi highway into a one-way road between the Vasileos Constantinou junction heading for the new airport and the Koropi detour junction with Markopoulo, as well as along Vasileos Constantinou until the junction with Kalymnos St.
They have also forbidden cars from parking along the length of the Vari-Koropi highway.
Source: Athens News Agency