August 5, 2004

August 2004: The sun sets over a huge wind sculpture, The Wall of Nations, in the OAKA Olympic Complex in Athens while hundreds of volunteer drummers prepare for a dress rehearsal of their act at the opening ceremony of Athens 2004 Olympic Games, due a week later on August 13. Athens managed to finish its Olympic works in the nick of time, even as athletes, officials and journalists began to arrive at the airport. The transport network was finally up and running, the stadiums were ready and even landscaping efforts were nearly complete.

The Olympic Village was already lauded by visitors as a wonderful place for athletes to stay and train ahead of their respective sport events. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Athens "will give magical Games". And as predicted, the Greeks warmed to Games tickets in the manner in which they completed their Olympic preparation - at the last minute. After being cordoned off from the public eye for months of Olympic refurbishment, central Syntagma Square also opened to the public on the night of August 5, a few hours after the public works minister delivered a new car park on Akadimias Street and inspected remodelling works in Kolonaki Square. On August 4, the port of Piraeus was sealed for nearly two hours as a minesweeper combed the harbour area where eight cruiseships hosting Olympic officials, athletes and guests were scheduled to dock during the Games. The suburban railway to the airport came into service as of July 30, and the Athens tram was already in its third week of operation, though not without encountering serious problems, with extreme delays that threatened its viability as a post-Olympic urban transport project. On the roads, Athenian drivers respectfully steered clear of special traffic lanes reserved for Olympic officials, athletes and the media throughout the Games

Dimitris Yannopoulos

(Posting date 10 August 2006 )

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