Olympic Flame arrives in Athens Park, Queens, New York.
"Today is a great day for the Olympic Torch Relay as the Flame has traveled from Athens, Greece to Athens Park, Queens in the heart of the Astoria of Greeks Abroad. The Flame, the symbol of the greatest sporting event in the world, lights this city with the most intensely multicultural and multinational nature in the world".
With these words, ATHENS 2004 President, Gianna ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI, set the tone for the beginning of the leg of the Olympic Torch Relay that set out this morning, at 10:30 local time, on its journey from the city of New York from Athens Park. It will be transported by 120 Torchbearers to five Boroughs and the city's most significant monuments, covering some 55 kilometres (34 miles).
Speaking at the opening ceremony at Athens Park, in the presence of New York Mayor Michael BLOOMBERG, Greek Alternate Minister of Culture Fani PALLI-PETRALIA, and many celebrities and hundreds of people of Greek heritage, Mrs Angelopoulos stressed the uniqueness of the Athens Olympic Games as "Men and Women athletes will compete in the 3,000 year old Olympic Stadium, where the Games began, at the Panathinaiko Stadium, where the Games were revived in 1896, and in the shadow of the Parthenon, beneath the Acropolis".
The ATHENS 2004 President then mentioned the "close relationship Greece and the United States always enjoyed, which one feels in Athens Park and the streets of Astoria, and which was boosted by the hospitality extended to American athletes by Greeks in the 1896 Games - to the point where they asked that the next Games take place, in 1900, again in Athens".
On security, Mrs Angelopoulos underscored that "it remains our top priority as we have devoted more funds and planning, in Greece, than any other Organising Committee and host country of previous Olympic Games".
The ATHENS 2004 President thanked New York's Mayor, Michael BLOOMBERG, for his help in organising the Olympic Torch Relay in the city's streets, and in New York's contribution to the success of the Athens Games.
Seventeen stops have been scheduled in New York City, highlighting the city's historical or cultural monuments, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Yankee Stadium, Rockefeller Center, the UN building (where a special ceremony will take place) and the Greek Consulate. It will also pass in front of Ground Zero of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack. The Olympic Torch Relay is expected to be completed on the evening of Saturday, at 22:30 local time, in a large open gathering and series of events in the heart of New York: Times Square.
Torchbearers in New York will include Greek-American actress-director Nea VARDALOS, Olympic gold medallist Nadja Comaneci, businessmen Donald TRUMP and Steve FORBES, and NBA Star Dikembe MUTOBO.
Earlier on Saturday, the ATHENS 2004 President appeared on NBC's morning 'Today Show', and spoke of the Athens Olympic Games and their uniqueness, stressing that no one ought to miss them. A great part of the show was dedicated to the Olympic Torch Relay and was broadcast in a live link with the streets of New York, in the presence of Mrs Angelopoulos and Mayor Bloomberg, as well as several Torchbearers. One of the people who will be bearing the Torch through the streets of New York will be Today Show host, Lester HOLT.
During the preceding days, the ATHENS 2004 President held a series of contacts with leading American Media personalities. She also met with NBC Vice-President Dick EBERSOL, and dined with the publishers and editors of the New York Times.