ATHENS 2004, the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, held a special ceremony on Tuesday, in recognition of the services rendered by Volunteers for the second cluster of Sport Events, from November 2003 to the start of February 2004.
ATHENS 2004 President, Gianna ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI, was also present with Deputy COO, Spyros CAPRALOS, to welcome the Volunteers. "There are 700 different reasons to be here today",
she said, referring to the number of Volunteers who had trained for the Athens Olympic and Paralympic Games by serving in the second cluster of Sport Events. "We are all aware that there can be no Games without Volunteers",
Mrs Angelopoulos thanked the Volunteers for the smiles, enthusiasm and cheerfulness they had displayed at the competition venues.
"We also thank you for your warm response to today's invitation",
she told them. "It is a response that reveals yet again your dedication to the common goal: a magical Olympic Games in Athens in 2004! You and all volunteers who will be offering their services are the heart and soul of the Games. You have shown your mettle once more in your participation in the Sport Events, your quality, and your dedication to the task - often under adverse conditions. When the cold, snow and rain were making it particularly difficult to get about Athens, you were always there on time".
The ATHENS 2004 President referred to some examples. There was a whole family of volunteers, a father and his two children, who had served at the weightlifting Sport Event, as a team by themselves. Two volunteers - from Chania in Crete, and from Viotia - had served at the first Paralympic Sport Event, for Boccia. All this was proof of the universality of the movement.
With only 193 days before the Opening Ceremony of the Games, the current total of candidate volunteers was (said the President) more than 142,000. This was a record. It compared very favourably with Sydney, and gave the lie to those who had said that Greece had no tradition of Volunteerism. The official procedure for offering posts to Volunteers selected for the Games had started in December 2003. About 3,500 Volunteers had been recruited for specific posts at Games-time and were being notified in writing.
"For us, the Games have already begun",
said Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. "You all know that, because you have already lived through it. You have been part of the cluster of Sport Events that has just ended, and you have genuinely done your very best".
She was quick to point out how volunteers' generous offer of their services had been appreciated by top foreign athletes in Athens for the Sport Events and by International Federation officials and IOC members, who were particularly hard to please about the sort of service they got. She ended: "We want you to take the message of Volunteerism for the Games to your friends, families, and acquaintances. This will make the heartbeat of the 2004 Games even faster. We thank you! I thank you from my heart! Let's all be there!"
After the President's speech, there was a video showing of highlights from the Sport Events and of interviews with Volunteers, Chiefs of International Federations, IOC President Dr. Jacques ROGGE and Chairman of IOC Coordination Commission Denis OSWALD.
There was one stand in the Conference Hall for each of the Sport Events: Modern pentathlon, Wrestling, Judo, Weightlifting, Boccia, and Table tennis. The volunteers assembled at these stands in their sport event working teams to collect their personal commemorative certificates. Each certificate is signed by the Venue Manager and Volunteers' Venue Manager, confirming the individual's participation as a volunteer in the second cluster of Sport Events.
Leading Greek athletes from the Sport Events attended the ceremony. Among them were: Sarantis KONSTANTATOS (Modern Pentathlon), Panagiotis GIONIS and Archontoula VOLAKAKI (Table tennis), Dionysis ILIADIS (Judo), Konstantinos THANOS (Wrestling), and Argyro and Evangelia LAMPARA (Boccia).