US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
June 2004; Vol. 10 No. 6
(also available in PDF file)
CLEAR VICTORY FOR RULING NEW DEMOCRACY IN EURO-ELECTIONS
In contrast with the showing of many other governing parties in Europe, candidates of Greece’s ruling New Democracy party were strongly supported by the Greek electorate in the elections for the European Parliament on June 13.
In a voter turnout of 63.18 percent, compared with a 45% average turnout in the 25 member-countries of the EU, New Democracy candidates received 43.03 percent of the vote, a margin of nine percent over second-placed Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) polling 34.01 percent. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) slate received 9.48 percent, followed by the Coalition of the Left (SYN), 4.16 percent, and the Popular Orthodox Rally, (LAOS), 4.11 percent.
Of the 24 seats accorded to Greece in the new 732-member Europarliament distributed on a population basis in the recently enlarged European Union, 11 were won by New Democracy candidates, 8 by those of PASOK, 3 by KKE, and one each by the other two parties. The margin of New Democracy’s lead over PASOK was more emphatic than its lead in both the last Euro-elections of 1999 (3 percentage points) and the national elections earlier this year (5 percentage points).
Commenting on New Democracy’s success, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said it was a mandate given by the Greek people for the government to go forward with its programs. Greece, Mr. Karamanlis said, will seek to strengthen its role within the EU and its “strong, clear and unified voice” in world affairs. His government, Mr. Karamanlis added, will pursue “its vision of Europe as a force for peace and security in the world … able and determined to defend its borders, economically stronger and with robust growth in every region, with better social policy providing all its citizens with jobs, security and prosperity.”
PASOK leader George Papandreou said he was satisfied with the election result which, he said, did not give the government “carte blanche.” He was determined to go ahead with the restructuring of his party which, he said, would confront the government with strong opposition.
The New European Constitution: A Great Day for Europe
Leaders of the newly enlarged 25-member European Union, at a summit meeting in Brussels, June 18-19, reached agreement after tough negotiations on a European Constitution. The achievement was praised by Prime Minister Karamanlis as “a great day for Europe, a great step forward. With this new Treaty, the European Union goes through an institutional development which strengthens its political, democratic, and economic character. It moves into closer contact with the European citizen by making its institutions more comprehensible and more accessible. It reinforces the prospects for further economic development while at the same time strengthening the EU’s social aspect. It bolsters the role and presence of the EU in the world at large, to the benefit of international peace and stability.”
Mr. Karamanlis had words of praise for the Irish presidency’s hard work and for the “inspired European,” former French president Giscard d’Estaing, who chaired the Constitutional Assembly and envisaged “a democratic and more powerful Europe.” Citing the message conveyed by the recent elections to the European Parliament, he hoped that the agreement reached on the European Constitution will prove a “decisive step towards regaining the trust of European citizens.”
On the more specific benefits of the agreed Constitution, Mr. Karamanlis cited: the simplification of EU treaties, with the present complex procedures for EU decision-making replaced by a system which adopts decisions supported by 55 percent of the member-countries, if they represent over 65 percent of total EU population, and if those countries number 15 or more.
Another feature of the agreement welcomed by Mr. Karamanlis as of special significance for Greece is the provision for the development of tourism in member-states, including their island territories, to promote economic and social cohesion in a united Europe.
In external relations, the creation of the post of an EU foreign minister was, in the view of Mr. Karamanlis, extremely important, as was the constitutional requirement of mutual assistance among EU member-states in the event of attack against any of them.
Message of Peace Spreads to Four US Olympic Cities
THE OLYMPIC FLAME ON ITS GLOBAL JOURNEY
At an exciting ceremony on June 2 at the Athens International Airport, the Olympic Flame, lit by the sun in ancient Olympia on March 25, set off on its worldwide journey which will include all five continents – Africa and Latin America for the first time.
The Flame’s 36-day itinerary, as it travels in two Boeing 747 airliners named “Zeus” and “Hera,” takes in 32 cities in 27 countries. It will return to Greece on July 9 and after traveling to 174 sites will light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium on August 13 to signal the opening of the XXVIII Olympiad.
At the send-off ceremony, Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki spoke of the message “for Games on a human scale, unique Games that will give athletes the opportunity to compete in the finest competition venues, in the authentic setting of Olympism.” Also present at the ceremony, IOC President Jacques Rogge said: “As it leaves Greece for its journey around the five continents symbolized by the Olympic Rings, the Olympic Flame is set to remind the world of universal Olympic principles . . . Whether male or female, young or old, able-bodied or disabled, high-level athlete or amateur, whether we live in wealth or in a developing country, the Flame unites us all.”
A High-Level Welcome
Throughout its worldwide journey, the Flame has received a welcome at the highest level. In Australia, deputy prime minister John Anderson (deputizing for Prime Minister John Howard who was traveling abroad) spoke of the “unforgettable moments” of the Sydney Games in 2000 and said that all Australia wished every success to Athens. In South Africa, it was carried by the 86-year-old former president Nelson Mandela, revered for his struggle against apartheid, on Cape Town’s Robin Island where he was imprisoned for 27 years.
After Seoul, where it was greeted by leading Koreans in a ceremony watched by a crowd of 2,000, the Flame arrived in China where 12 athletes, wearing Athens 2004 outfits, carried the Flame along a section of the Great Wall of China before its parade by 148 torchbearers through the center of Beijing after a ceremony in Tiananmen Square. From there it went to New Delhi where it was greeted at a ceremony at the National Stadium; then on to Cairo where invited guests among the 105 torchbearers included the director of Afghanistan’s Red Cross who has artificial legs after losing both of his own in a minefield.
On the American continent, a panorama of 45 sports was presented at the Olympic Stadium by hundreds of students of Mexico City’s Sport University. Mexico’s Secretary of State for Sports, Nelson Varcas Basanas, called the Athens Olympics “a long-awaited event,” and Norma Enriqueta Basilio, the first woman to light the Olympic cauldron at the 1968 Games, spoke of the “special symbolism” of the Athens Games as she began her run as the first of 122 torchbearers.
Arriving in Los Angeles on June 16, the first of the four US cities on its journey, the Flame was passed by Mayor James Hahn to film star Sylvester Stallone, the first of the runners, who also included Tom Cruise and Ellen DeGeneris, to take the Torch through the city’s landmark sites. Among the other torchbearers: 95-year-old Peter Glentzos who represented Greece at the 1932 Olympics; and the dean of LA’s St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
In St. Louis, on June 17, the Flame was greeted on its second US leg by Mayor Francis Slay who said “the eyes of the world are on St. Louis today” as the Torch began its 34-mile tour of the city with the enthusiastic reception of the local Greek American community. The celebration culminated when Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee ran with the Flame to light the Olympic cauldron in the city’s Forest Park – an honor which she said was “the greatest – the ultimate compliment.”
In Atlanta on June 18, 132 torchbearers took turns carrying the torch through 30 miles of city streets, with Mayor Shirley Franklin and 1996 Olympics chief Bill Payne greeting it at Centennial Olympic Park. The torchbearers included three-time Olympian Gail Devers who told the Atlanta Constitution “it is really an honor . . . I am part of the global relay passing on human kindness and fair play.”
A highlight of the Torch’s journey was its first-ever visit to the United Nations where, on June 19, Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of the “difficult and troubling” recent years for the family of nations. That, he said, increases the importance of the ideals shared by the Olympic Movement and the United Nations. The Olympic Truce, a call for the worldwide laying down of arms during the Games, is one way to promote ideals. It is “a unique concept” which, he added, “should be understood as more than a symbol … it can offer a point of consensus, a pause to open a dialogue, a chance to provide relief to a suffering population … a window of hope.”
“During the Olympic Games,” the Secretary-General concluded, “may the serenity of the Olympic Flame silence the sound of warfare. May all heed the message of hope which this Olympic Torch is taking around the world – a message that carries within it all our aspirations for a better, more peaceful world.”
At Athens Park in New York’s Greek-populated Astoria district, the Torch was welcomed at a ceremony attended New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Greece’s Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralla, and hundreds of Greek-Americans. They heard Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki speak of close Greek-American relations and thank the Mayor for helping to prepare for the torch relay which included stops at 17 of New York’s landmark features, including Central Park, Yankee Stadium, Rockefeller Center and Ground Zero, site of the Twin Towers.
From New York, the Torch was flown to Montreal, host of the 1976 Games, where it was received by Mayor Gerald Tremblay.
The Flame arrived back in Europe on June 21, after its journey through Oceania, Asia, Africa, North and South America. Its first European stop was in Antwerp, host of the 1920 Olympics. There are 18 European cities on the torch’s route to Athens.
In US Visit Athens Mayor Describes City’s Transformation
On a visit to the United States in June to promote Athens as the host city of the 2004 Olympic Games, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis spoke of the metamorphosis of the Greek capital, as it prepares to receive thousands of athletes and spectators this August. In New York she attended events organized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and by the Onassis Foundation where, referring to previous delays and problems in Olympic preparations, she said: “I can’t change the past, but I can change the future… We are confident that we will manage to surprise the world by staging successful and safe Olympic Games.”
Arriving in Washington, Mayor Bakoyannis spoke on Olympic preparations and the transformation of Athens at a forum on June 7 organized by the Western Policy Center, where she noted that the Athens Olympics will be “the largest organized event in the world by the smallest-ever country in modern times.”
The mayor spoke of the “major changes taking place to make the city more attractive, user-friendly, effective, functional and even more entertaining for its inhabitants and visitors” – not only during the Games, but afterwards. “The Olympic Games,” she said, “will come and go; but the City of Athens will remain, just as it has remained for 3,000 years.”
Ms. Bakoyannis noted some of the records already broken at the 2004 Games: a record number of countries represented (202); a record number of athletes (11,000); a record number of journalists and assistants (21,000); a record total expenditure ($8.5 billion – including long-term infrastructures); a record spending on security ($1.2 billion); and a record number of volunteers (160,000 applicants from all over the world).
In a long Washington Post article by Nora Boustany on June 9, Ms. Bakoyannis (whose first husband was murdered by the November 17 terrorists) is quoted as insisting that there must be a balance between the focus on security and the identity of the Games. “We are all concerned about terrorism… if we change our way of life, terrorists have won and we need to explain to people that life goes on… the Olympics this summer should have a human dimension. They should not just be about world records, money or buildings, but about values, ideas and respect for others.”
In addition to speaking at an event hosted by Ambassador George Savvaides, where she received an award from the Hellenic American Heritage Council and stressed that “in an uncertain world, Athens during the Games will probably be its safest city,” Ms. Bakoyannis discussed security issues with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and reported their agreement that the Games have been well prepared and will be both safe and successful. She also discussed Olympic preparations with members of Congress.
Other Olympic News
• Greece’s Armed Forces will play an active part in the provision of health services during the Games, making available 622 medical staff, military hospitals, ambulances and three military airports. They will also provide the services of its Unit of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense which has 208 medical and nursing staff trained to deal with biochemical attacks. The Athens Military Hospital has 24 beds and 63 staff specialized in dealing with chemical threats. In addition to the assistance of the Armed Forces, medical services for the Games will have the help of 2,800 volunteers – doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, rescue teams, etc.
• The world’s biggest hotel will be open for business for 71 days on the slopes of Mount Parnes on the outskirts of Athens. Otherwise known as the Olympic Village, it will house some 16,000 customers – athletes and their attendants – and about 10,000 staff. The 366 residential buildings include 2,292 apartments, all constructed with environmentally-friendly materials on a “bioclimatic energy plan” which will cool the summer heat. IOC President Jacques Rogge has made it known that he will stay at the Olympic Village, not in a VIP hotel.
• After doubts and delays, the much-discussed glass and steel dome over the Olympic Stadium, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is finally in place and, according to a report in USA Today on June 11, it has “dramatically changed the stadium which finally looks like the centerpiece of the Games.” Actor Sean Connery, who watched a track and field test event, said: “It is an impressive space that you can only believe by being here to see it.”
• The new tramway connecting central Athens with two major Olympic complexes on the coast was successfully tested in mid-June. Costing $380 million, the system will be ready for commercial operation in July. It has 35 trams and 47 stops along its 16-mile course. Some 80-90,000 people are expected to use the trams daily.
• The government also announced that the long-awaited metro extension to the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport will be ready by the end of July and will initially run on the new suburban rail line.
• At the peak period of Olympic travel in August, Athens Airport is expected to handle one arrival or departure every minute, compared with the normal flow of 40 per hour. A total of almost 800 aircraft will be moved on peak-period days, involving some 70-80,000 passengers. A total of 20,600 aircraft are expected to land in August, compared with the current monthly average of 17,000, with a total of 2 million arrivals compared with last year’s 1.5 million.
• Coverage of the Athens Olympics by six NBC networks will total 1,210 hours, almost three times more than for the 2000 Games in Sydney. There will be some 300 hours of live coverage, some of sports that have not been televised before.
• Hadrian’s Arch, one of the outstanding historical features of Athens, hidden by scaffolding since restoration work began in October 2002, was unveiled on June 25, completing a walkway linking all the major archaeological sites of the city.
• Journalists who have visited the Media Center at the historic Zappeion Mansion in central Athens have been praising the facility, which opened in April and will stay open until the end of the Paralympic Games in September, to facilitate the work of journalists who would like to cover Greece but do not possess Olympic accreditation from the Athens Organizing Committee. The center provides the very latest communications equipment for the print and broadcast media.
From the US Press
OLYMPIC EATING IN ATHENS
In “Greece Lightning,” a feature in the July issue of Gourmet magazine, leading food critic Diane Kochilas has good things to say about “a revolution” in the restaurant scene of the Greek capital where, she writes, “Olympic aspirations are not just for the playing fields. New restaurants, seasoned chefs, and a return to real Greek cooking make this city electric with possibility.”
“Gastronomy,” writes Kochilas, “was a Greek word without a modern Greek practitioner to do it justice … The European Union opened up a world of ingredients to a new generation of chefs, and suddenly restaurants sprouted all over the city… In a homecoming as profoundly felt as the return of the Olympics to their birthplace, chefs began to turn back to what had always been there: a wealth of fresh, seasonal, regional foods – island cheeses, wild mountain greens, seafood caught in the morning in the Aegean and shipped by mid-afternoon to Athens, succulent free-range lamb, aromatic honey, wild white hyacinth bulbs preserved in the most discreet of brines, olives, raisin vinegars, and olive oil, golden or emerald.”
“With the Summer Olympics imminent, the city’s chefs and restaurateurs now find themselves caught up in a new race. Michelin stars (the country boasts three one-stars) glow as egregiously as flambéed desserts.”
NEW US AMBASSADOR TO GREECE
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 16, Charles P. Ries, nominated to succeed Thomas Miller as the next US Ambassador to Greece, spoke of the “important bilateral relationship (which) fits into the mosaic of our broader – and vital – transatlantic community of interests with our EU and NATO partners.”
Mr. Ries, who has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs since 2000, noted that in the first half of 2003, when Greece held the presidency of the European Union and he, as the State Department’s official chiefly responsible for US “troubled but never broken” relations with the EU, worked intensively with the Greek government to ensure that “sharp differences within the EU over the conflict in Iraq” did not undermine EU-US cooperation. The EU-US Summit at the White House in June 2003, led for the EU by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, was, Mr. Ries said, “one of the most productive” of its kind.
Mr. Ries spoke of the “shared heritage and close family ties” between Greece and the US, of the 1.2 million Americans of Greek heritage, and of the more than 100,000 Americans who today make their homes in Greece.
Top priority for the US in the bilateral relationship, Mr. Ries said, is to continue the close cooperation with Greece in the war on terrorism. He would strive to further efforts to help Greece prevent terrorist incidents at the coming Olympics. Greece, he said, “is making a continuing contribution to the effort to deny havens, financing and supplies to international terrorist groups.”
Mr. Ries stressed that he would continue to support Greece’s active role in promoting security and stability in the Balkans, its advocacy of Turkey’s EU aspirations, and its highly credible position, as “the ancestral home of democracy” in efforts to promote democratic reform in the vital region of the Middle East.
The Ambassador-designate referred also to Greece’s contribution of troops to Afghanistan’s stabilization, and to the considerable room for growth in investment and trade relations between Greece and the US. In this regard he noted Prime Minister Karamanlis’ pledge to improve the business climate in Greece.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece