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Athens is ready to stage a safe Champions Final May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Athens geared up yesterday to host the Champions League final as English and Italian soccer fans began arriving in the city, where more than 15,000 police officers are on duty to ensure one of the world’s biggest sporting events passes off without serious incident.

In a security operation similar to the one launched for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games three years ago, some 7,500 policemen went on duty yesterday.

Around 50,000 soccer fans are due to travel to Athens for the final between Liverpool and AC Milan at the OAKA Olympic Stadium. It is estimated that some 15,000 supporters will arrive in the city without tickets for the game and much of the security operation will focus on making sure these fans do not misbehave. English fans are likely to outnumber Italians two to one.

Some 150 officers from Britain will help Greek police in their efforts. Policemen from Italy will also be in the Greek capital.

English and Italian fans are being kept apart once they arrive at Athens International Airport, with Liverpool supporters being directed into the city on buses and Milan fans by train.

Police will also set up three security zones around the Olympic Stadium to ensure that fans without tickets or those carrying prohibited objects, or appearing to be drunk, will not be allowed into the ground.

Roads around the stadium will also be closed from tomorrow afternoon but authorities said that the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway, which stops at the Olympic Stadium, will run through the night tomorrow.

Authorities plan to use paintball pellets in different colors to identify any rioting fans at the final. It would be the first time for this sort of equipment to be used in Greece. The paint marks will help officers pick out troublemakers so they can move in and arrest them. Also, should they fail to apprehend any suspects at the time, the marks will help officers identify potential hooligans later.

Meanwhile, police unionists threatened yesterday to unfurl a banner during the final to draw attention to their complaints about pay and working conditions. It has been suggested that some 200 off-duty officers have tickets for the game and could try to grab attention for their cause.

In a separate development, a man was arrested yesterday for attempting to make a huge profit by selling match tickets on the black market. The unnamed travel agent from Athens was allegedly offering tickets to fans at almost 18 times their face value of 140 euros.

Milan wants revenge and Liverpool an easier way in European Final May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Repeat finalists hope to skip previous encounter’s spills

AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini and the rest of the Italian club’s squad arrived at their Athens hotel yesterday, ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League final at the Athens Olympic Stadium.

The possibility of another penalty shootout is not being entertained by AC Milan. Since beating Juventus on penalties to win its last Champions League title in 2003, Milan has lost three straight shootouts. Liverpool, tomorrow night’s other Champions League finalist, wants the same outcome as in 2005. It just hopes to do it the easy way this time. Rafa Benitez’s team edged AC Milan in a penalty shootout in Istanbul two years ago after falling behind 3-0 at halftime. Now the two teams meet again in Athens for the same prize.

Liverpool will have had a 10-day break by kickoff time, while Milan is still not finished with Serie A action. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti rested most of his regular starters for last Saturday’s game against Udinese and the team lost 3-2.

«We are not thinking about penalties but if it happens, we will have to strike the ball better than we did in Istanbul,» Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. Ancelotti has another bad shootout memory. He played in the 1984 final in which AS Roma lost to Liverpool on penalties. While Kaka has converted all three penalties Milan has been awarded in this season’s Champions League, the squad has missed three of five in Serie A.

Benitez hopes that none of the current lineup who played in that final will cast their minds back to the first half. After Paolo Maldini’s first-minute goal, Hernan Crespo scored two more before halftime.

Steve Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, will be out to make sure his team doesn’t concede first this time. «I think the first goal is very important,» he said. «I don’t think you’ll see a similar game to 2005. I think it will be a lot closer because the defenses will be a lot tighter this time. One small detail can decide this game, a set piece or a mistake by an individual.»

A master tactician, Benitez has several selection decisions to make. Harry Kewell is back in contention for a starting place. The Australian has missed most of the season with lingering groin and foot injuries.

Meanwhile, AC Milan’s club president and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is offering his team lineup suggestions again. Before the 2003 and 2005 finals, Berlusconi voiced his opposition to Ancelotti’s preferred 4-3-2-1 «Christmas tree» formation, suggesting that two strikers play instead of one. Back then, Berlusconi had the added weight of being the country’s Premier. The fact that he’s now a mere opposition leader hasn’t silenced him. While the «Christmas tree» formation is still in place, the debate now is which striker to put on top, Filippo Inzaghi or Gilardino.

Elvis Costello to perform in Athens May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Athens Festival, Music Life Live Gigs.
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Elvis Costello, to perform at Herod Atticus Ancient Theater on July 10 with New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint

Costello will be in Athens for a July 10 performance at the Herod Atticus Theater with the esteemed New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint, as part of this season’s Athens Festival.

The musical pair were brought together by the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans. They wrote “The River In Reverse” an album prompted by catastrophe, but which sounds like a celebration.

The world in the blink of an eye May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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New production by avant-garde director Robert Wilson set to premiere in Athens next week

What do you see when you blink? A piece of reality? A fragment of a dream? Avant-garde director and playwright Robert Wilson has come up with a few answers and is about to unveil them to the world next week.

The world premiere of “Rumi: In the Blink of the Eye” is scheduled to take place in Athens as the final part of the Attiki Cultural Society’s Spring Theater Festival at the Pallas Theater on May 28, 29, 30 and 31.

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273) the poet considered the greatest of Sufi mystics, became the founding father of the Mevlevi Order, otherwise known as the Whirling Dervishes. Discovered by Western travelers in the 19th century, the Whirling Dervishes have long fascinated international audiences. In this new work featuring Turkish and Farsi texts, Eastern traditions are combined with contemporary Western creation. With UNESCO billing 2007 as International Rumi Year, the production is the first installment of a three-year “Rumi Project,” celebrating 800 years since the poet’s birth.

Featuring vocalists, musicians and dancers, “Rumi: In the Blink of the Eye” is part of Wilson’s universe of images, movement and sound, or no sound at all. On stage, Wilson shows a penchant for slow movement and austerity. What the French define as “silent operas,” he calls working on “structured silences.”

Pallas Theater, 3 Voukourestiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3213100. For credit card reservations call 211 1086050. Or visit www.ticketshop.gr and Fnac at The Mall. 

Halkidiki expects record crowds May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Bookings from foreign tourists up 10 percent despite last year’s devastating forest fires > It appears the advertising campaign and the knock-on effect from the promotion of the Athens Olympics is responsible for the hike in bookings.

Images of flames devouring the region of Cassandra, northern Greece, and clouds of smoke over nearby Halkidiki that were broadcast around the world last August do not appear to have damaged the region’s tourist trade as feared, for a 10 percent increase in arrivals is expected this summer.

Tourism industry sources in Halkidiki claim that the projected increase is not only due to the peninsula’s reputation as a holiday destination but also the effects of an aggressive advertising campaign launched after the fire was extinguished.

Mayor Constantinos Kapoulas of Pallini in the Cassandra area said the fire was a “bad memory” adding that not only had there been a 10 percent increase in bookings from abroad but local travel agencies are asking for more rooms. “It appears the advertising campaign and the knock-on effect from the promotion of the Athens Olympics is responsible,” he said.

Also satisfied with the campaign is Dinos Tornivoukas, Vice President of the Halkidiki Hoteliers’ Union, who said this season will be even better than last, which was excellent, at least until the fire broke out in Cassandra. Also optimistic are owners of rooms to rent, who say bookings are up from last year.

The Hoteliers’ Union, in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry, has already made use of extra funds totaling 100,000 euros for the promotion campaign; an equal amount is also to be granted to counteract adverse publicity. According to the Deputy Prefect responsible for tourism, Dionysis Aristotelidis, the promotion campaign abroad included presentations by the Halkidiki Prefecture at over 20 international tourism fairs and campaigns in Balkan countries. Meanwhile, the Cassandra region will face the threat of flooding in the event of heavy rains, as the anti-flooding infrastructure has not yet been completed one year after the fire.

Aristotelidis said the state would have to provide funds for the purpose, but that the prefecture was carrying out restoration work so tourists would not be confronted by unsightly landscapes. Cassandra’s Forestry Director Giorgos Klonaris hoped “nature itself” would restore the damage to some extent, a process that has already begun with the appearance of the first seedlings.

Demand for marinas in Greece rises May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Marina operators are profiting from the arrival of higher-quality tourism, thanks to advertising and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

As Greece increasingly becomes a highly popular international tourism destination, the current economic conditions offer good growth prospects for domestic marina operators, according to the findings of a study by Hellastat SA.

The successful hosting of the 2004 Athens Games has certainly contributed to these results, along with a strong advertising campaign launched by the country’s Tourism Ministry and through participation in international tourism exhibitions and events.

Officials from the marina operation sector described 2006 as a positive year, having recorded higher sea tourism business and greater numbers of vessels at most mooring facilities. Higher demand came primarily from professional yachting, with sailing boat chartering in Greece becoming increasingly popular in markets such as UK, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, as well as from large privately owned yachts.

According to the Hellenic Professional Yacht Owner Association (EPEST), sales in the chartering segment of vessels with a capacity up to 49 passengers in 2006 rose 100 percent to 150 percent, compared to 2005. In contrast, crewed boat and motorship chartering recorded a lesser rate of growth, at 15 percent to 25 percent.

Services offered by a small number of privately operated Greek marinas are almost equal in standard to those of their direct competitors in the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean. Though these countries do not boast the extensive coastlines and numerous islands of Greece, they have built more marinas and offer services of a higher quality.

Marinas in competitor countries focus especially on customer reception services and on well-designed sales and promotion models. Croatia, for instance, regarded as Greece’s most serious competitor, currently operates as many as 50 marinas with a total capacity of 13,200 berths plus an additional 4,500 wintering places. 

Throughout Greece, there are more than 1,250 ports of all types and classes, but marinas number no more than 30, including those operated by private companies. In addition, state-run marinas are hard to modernize and upgrade, primarily on account of their complex operating system.

However, according to Hellastat’s study, a favorable outlook for marinas and sea tourism may be assisted by certain conditions and developments currently facilitating investments in the sector. These include programs for the promotion of alternative forms of tourism, aimed at differentiating Greece’s tourism product from that of its competitors, as well as at extending the tourism season to 12 months a year. In addition, there are certain actions, currently at the planning stage, to further develop sea tourism and upgrade port and marina facilities around the country. Against this background, a 3 billion euro Funding Protocol was signed in June 2005 between Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The funds will be used specifically for projects to upgrade port and harbor facilities in the period 2005-2015.

According to the latest financial results of the 13 Greek companies operating in this field, 11 firms posted an increase in turnover, pushing the sector’s average growth rate to 19 percent. However, in terms of operating and net results, most suffered losses as a result of high administrative and financial expenses.

Greek Australian community welcomes visiting PM May 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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About 700,000 Australians claim Greek heritage, but this week marks the first time a Greek Prime Minister has visited Australia.

Sydney’s Greek community has turned out in force to greet the visiting Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. The Greek PM is in Australia to sign a historic bilateral social security agreement between the two countries after decades of negotiation.

Voula Messimeri, from the Australian Greek Welfare Society, says it is an important move for many Australian Greeks, especially the older people. “It’s been one of those extraordinarily vexed issues for the Australian Greek community, that it’s taken such an extraordinary long time for this issue to be resolved,” she said.

In a symbolic gesture, Mr Karamanlis first visited the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, Archbishop Stylianos, at the Redfern cathedral in inner Sydney this morning.

Australia’s second largest Australian city, Melbourne, which Karamanlis will visit Friday, is home to the third largest Greek-speaking population in the world after Athens and Thessaloniki.