Media Representatives were shown round the Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre yesterday by Marton Simitsek, Executive Director of ATHENS 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and President of the Pre-Olympic Test Events Organizing Committee.
The journalists were exhaustively briefed by staff and volunteers on the support installations and their functioning, which match the conditions they will encounter in the Olympic Tournament of August 2004. The conditions are all set, both in the land installations and on the water, where no less than 554 sailors from 54 countries will be competing in ten Classes.
After the tour, Mr Simitsek held a Press Conference in the Venue Main Press Centre. He emphasized that his staff and volunteers were all involved from the very outset - "The Athens Olympics begins today, with this first Test Event". He explained why there had to be a test event; first so that staff could get used to working together and so that Functional Areas could learn to interact; and second so that the laborious detailed planning of the past two or three years could be tested out in practice. This was the first test event of some forty that would take place before the Olympics themselves, he told them, and there would be nine simultaneous test events in August 2003. The budget was €405,000, of which €404,000 had been spent to date. "I draw attention to this figure", said Mr Simitsek, "because our guiding rule in working and taking decisions has always been to keep to our budget, even though when it was drawn up we did not have the necessary experience".
The purpose of the present competitions was partly to let the competitors familiarize themselves with sea conditions, but above all to enable the organizers to provide, and test out, the best possible services for them. The Federation's role was a very important one: now, as at Games-time, the OCOG would be called on to man the competition venue with specialist sports personnel, in accordance with the prescriptions of the IOC.
Staff from ATHENS 2004 numbered 236, with a further 38 Games Competition technical officials. There were also 217 volunteers (172 for the competition venue and 45 for other requirements such as Medical Services and Accreditation. The Organizing Committee had deliberately decided not to use a pool of 620 Olympic volunteers with specific knowledge of sailing. "We want the largest possible number of Organizing Committee employees to work at the Venue", said Mr Simitsek, "so that they can familiarize themselves with conditions and understand what they are working on better".
Turning to Security, he said that the Committee had so far accredited 488 individuals. The Coastguard Service had undertaken the security measures with the assistance of the police and the traffic police and other bodies for the area outside the compound. The only service allowed inside the Venue was - should their services be needed - the Fire Brigade. Another 190 of the Venue personnel were directly connected with the contract work of cleaning up. At Games-time these would become uniformed attendants.
Applications to compete had been received form 554 sailors. This meant some two hundred more people than would compete in the Games themselves. Accreditation had so far been given to 242 of them. The number of craft needing accreditation was 361, and 119 had already been accredited. Forty-three countries would be taking part in ten Competition Classes.
Also present at the Press Conference were Panagiotis Nikiforidis, Venue Operations Manager of Agios Kosmas; Ioannis Giannouris, Games Competition Manager; and Kostas Dikaios, Support Functions and Services Manager.
Sofia Bekatorou (GRE) praises the Venue
470s World Champion Sofia Bekatorou, who will be teaming up with Emilia Tsulfa in the Games, praised the Venue. "The first complimentary words we heard were from the foreign competitors who've already arrived", she said. "Everything is functioning perfectly in the Venue, including Security. The services provided to the athletes are completely satisfactory. It all looks well organized. The marquees are very functional and there's really good air conditioning. My own impression is that this Venue is in every way better organized from the ones we had in the Sydney Olympics".
Top Athletes Get First Taste of Athens
Olympic medallists and world Sailing champions are about to get a first sample of the venue that will host the 2004 Olympic Sailing Regatta.
A total of 557 men and women athletes and 361 boats from 43 countries will take place in the first pre-Olympic Test Event at the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre, August 16-23.
Among top Sailing men athletes coming to Greece for the Regatta are: Carlos Espinoza (ARG), Roman Hangara (AUT) and John Forbs (AUS) in the Tornado event; Xavier Conte and Huan de la Fuente (ARG) in the 470 boats; Ben Ainslie (GBR) in the Finn; Simon Hiscocks (GBR) in the 49er; Luca Devoti (ITA) in the Finn. Top women athletes include: Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell (AUS) in the 470; Shirley Robertson (GBR) in the Yngling; Amelie Lux (GER) and Alessandra Sensini (ITA) in the Mistral.
Greece will have a strong presence at the event with 48 men and women athletes and 30 boats. Distinguished Greek Sailing athletes participating at the event include Olympic gold medalist Nikos Kaklamanakis in the Mistral; A. Kosmatopoulos and K. Trigonis in the 470; Emilios Papathanasiou in the Finn and Sophia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa in the Women's 470.
Participation numbers per class will be as follows:
Mistral/men (45 boats)
Mistral/women (38 boats)
Finn (37 boats)
Laser (61 boats)
Europe (9 boats)
470/men (38 boats)
470/women (36 boats)
49er (41 boats)
Tornado (31 boats)
Yngling (25 boats)