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A furniture invasion in Athens’ public spaces July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle.
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Chairs and tables invade last bits of public space > Squares and pedestrian zones transformed into outdoor cafes > Storekeepers on some Kolonaki streets were doing well until the cafes took over, closing off roads and store windows, bringing in peddlers and beggars.

A few days ago, customers of a cafe in downtown Piraeus witnessed an unfortunate scene: A resident of a nearby apartment block had suffered an ischemic episode. The ambulance, which had arrived promptly, could not approach the building and convey the patient properly on a stretcher past all the tables and chairs jamming the sidewalk.

Such scenes may not be common but those who work or live near the bars and cafes of all kinds that have taken over every centimeter of free space in Athens, often illegallly, have their own unpleasant experiences to recount.

Squares are so crowded people can barely cross them, shopping streets have almost no stores left on them since the cafes have pushed them out. Kolonaki, Fokionos Negri Street, Thiseion, Plaka, Monastiraki, Proskopon Square, and Hymmettou, Valaoritou, Tsakalof streets and Alexandras Avenue are just some of the streets that have been transformed into outdoor cafes without any kind of organization. Wherever a pedestrian zone is created or sidewalks are widened to secure a few more meters of open space, they instantly fill to bursting point with tables and chairs.

“In Greece,” say town planners, “we never had the European culture of squares. It is not by chance that we have few large, historic squares throughout Greece. So each time a new free space is created, the state seems uncomfortable about how to handle it, so it resorts to the easy solution of tables and chairs. Besides, a square full of cement isn’t suited to anything but cafes.”

Entrepreneurs blame the excessive number of laws and the absence of courageous political decisions. The Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) permits tables and chairs to take up 4.5 meters of the squares under its control. The Culture Ministry allows them to take up 2.5 meters in squares it controls. But nobody can check how many spaces each cafe can legally fill. The Municipality, which issues permits for chairs and tables, does not have sufficient inspectors so businesses infringe the law.

Tsakalof Street, which had attracted many leading entrepreneurs and importers, was designated a shopping street in 1997 and has lost its character. Entrepreneurs had to leave when tables crowded out the street, blocked off windows, impeded pedestrians and brought in peddlers and beggars.

“Little cafes line up tables and chairs along the sidewalk until it becomes impassable,” businessman Manos Pentheroudakis said. The same thing happened on Milioni street. Initially, making the street a pedestrian zone offered considerable advantages to store owners, until the tables and chairs invaded.

“The only streets that survived,” said Pentheroudakis, “are Ermou, thanks to a Presidential decree issued by then YPEHODE Minister Costas Laliotis, and Voukourestiou, by chance. By contrast, on Valaoritou, even though the City of Athens issued a ruling suspending permits for tables and chairs in 2006, it has not brought compliance. Not only have the rows of tables and chairs multiplied, but so has the number of cafes, many of which do not even have legal permits.”

A Municipal mechanism common to all local councils is responsible for the spread of tables and chairs into squares, streets and open spaces.

“The value of land in the center of Athens is so high,” a leading realtor said, “that it is cheaper to pay the Municipality or a Municipal employee who will turn a blind eye on an infringement rather than have a large store that has room for the clientele.”

A very small, ground-floor store of around 50 square meters might cost 4,000 euros a month to rent, but making the cafe twice or three times as big by putting tables and chairs out front would only cost 4,000 euros a year in Municipal fines. This discrepancy fosters shady dealings with city employees.

“I don’t want Athens to become a graveyard,” the capital’s Mayor, Nikitas Kaklamanis said, “but neither do I want things to go overboard. We can combine entertainment and business in this city.” He warned those who break the law, by illegal expansion or failing to pay fines, that respect for the public is crucial, and that he is planning more systematic inspections.

Already certain streets have been marked out, Milioni and Tsakalof, and Municipal trucks will be brought in to help. Cafe and bar owners who do not obey the instructions of the Municipal Police will have their tables and chairs loaded onto trucks and removed.


OPAP reform and technological upgrade remain fictional July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Games & Gadgets.
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The case regarding the technological upgrade of betting firm OPAP seems to be proving another bitter defeat for the government, with talk of OPAP’s independence from its technology supplier Intralot having eventually led to thousands of lost manpower hours and useless spending of some millions of euros, in addition to procedures entirely unrelated to the firm’s mission.

The partly state-controlled firm may have suffered certain losses as well, given that previous reform plans have been scrapped on the back of expectations for a new technology supplier. For instance, only half of OPAP agencies can currently support the operation for the high-demand KINO game, as it requires highly advanced terminals.

OPAP officials say that only three-fifths of the firm’s agencies are at present equipped with the advanced IT system terminals required for the specific game.

Critical decisions on OPAP’s IT upgrade and reform, despite the firm’s pledges on corporate governance, are forwarded to the office of Minister for Sports Giorgos Orfanos, instead of to the office of Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis who has prime responsibility for such decisions, since the state is the main shareholder.

It seems that the appointed administrations have been, as a rule, observing the political directions dictated by “supervising” ministers, paying little attention, if any at all, to such criteria as business effectiveness.

But this seems to be causing no worries for OPAP managers, considering that OPAP is still a monopolistic betting firm, and given Greeks’ increasing betting habits, profitability is almost guaranteed. Things will change indeed when OPAP’s monopoly is, sooner or later, dissolved. The administration though seems to have to reason to be concerned, as it is believed that there is plenty of time for any move to be readjusted.

A panorama of Greek art July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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National Gallery’s Corfu branch unveils new permanent collection, focuses on post-Byzantine works

nikolaos_gyzis.jpg  A work by Nikolaos Gyzis, a prominent member of the so-called Munich School, representing the painting style at the end of the 19th century.

Following the landmark opening of the National Glyptotheque in 2004, the Greek National Gallery is focusing on its other branches around the country. Hence, the opening of the permanent collection of Greek paintings that took place at Kato Korakiana on Corfu recently. The works illustrate modern Greek history, from the post-Byzantine years to today, with a strong emphasis on the artists of the Ionian School. All paintings stem from the National Gallery’s collection as well as from the Euripides Koutlidis Foundation collection.

The journey through contemporary Greek art starts off with a painting from the workshop of Domenicos Theotokopoulos-El Greco, and moves on to the early works of the Ionian School. It continues with the blossoming Munich School and works by Nikiforos Lytras, Nikolaos Gyzis and Georgios Iakovidis. These artists represent the painting style at the end of the 19th century.

The early 20th century is represented in works by Ioannis Altamouras, Constantinos Volanakis and Symeon Savvidis, who cast an impressionist look upon the natural world. The depiction of Greek light and the turn toward Greek modernism is seen in the paintings of Constantinos Parthenis, Constantinos Maleas, Michalis Economou and Dimitris Galanis, while the 1930s generation is represented by Fotis Kontoglou, Aginoras Asteriadis and Spyros Vassileiou.

The exhibition continues with the postwar period and works by Yiannis Moralis, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and Nikos Nikolaou, but also with the crucial decade of the 1950s and abstract works by Vlassis Kaniaris, Costas Tsoclis and others.

The period from the 60s up to today is recorded in works of sculptor Thodoros and artists Opy Zouni, Pavlos, Giorgos Lazongas, Panayiotis Tetsis, Giorgos Rorris, Stathis Logothetis, Nikos Alexiou, Christos Bokoros and Pantelis Handris.

National Gallery Director Marina Lambraki-Plaka is the general curator of the exhibition, while curator Alexandra Apostolidou is responsible for the works of the Ionian School up to WWII and Zina Kaloudi for the postwar works.

Apart from its permanent collections, the National Gallery will continue running temporary displays at the second building of its Corfu branch, which is housed in the Mibelli Mansion, as soon as circumstances allow it. The historical mansion was built after the restoration of a medieval tower, which is believed to have been built around 1600 by Italian baron Lucca Mibelli in the region today called Kato Korakiana. The National Gallery branch has been housed there since 1994.

Gallery offers feedback to new photographers July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Myrto Apostolidou is one of the artists participating in Apopsi’s Open Gallery Day. While giving photographers exposure, the gallery also provides them with feedback.

A recently opened gallery in the area of Kolonaki has begun an exhibition program which focuses on contemporary photography. The Center of Letters and Arts Apopsi, which is the full name of the gallery, has also established an “Open Gallery Day,” in which photographers and artists working in the medium of photography are invited to present their work and discuss it with the gallery’s staff. The idea is based on the portfolio reviews establishment, which is practiced by museums and other ventures internationally and was introduced for the first time this year at the 19th Photosynkyria event in Thessaloniki.

Ioanna Vasdeki, consultant at the Apopsi Center and photography critic, had the idea of opening up the gallery to portfolio reviews. The objective is to help provide public exposure to the work of young artists and to provide them with feedback on their work. In the Greek gallery scene, where photography is still marginalized, this initiative gives artists an opportunity to present their work.

Center of Letters and Arts Apopsi, 35 Deinocratous Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7227009. The Open Gallery Day will he held every Thursday from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Istanbul cancels Greek singer’s concert July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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A decision by authorities in Istanbul on Saturday to cancel at the last minute a concert by popular Greek singer George Dalaras, prompted the Foreign Ministry to accuse Turkish officials of looking for a “pretext” to call off the event.

The concert was due to take place at the 15th-century fortress Rumeli Hisari as part of the World Congress of Orthodox Youth, organized by the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. The musical event was canceled hours before it was due to start because the organizers had failed to deliver certain documents in time, according to the Istanbul governor’s office.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Komoutsakos issued a statement saying the decision “raises justifiable questions,” as Dalaras is an “internationally acclaimed artist who is especially liked in Turkey. “What has been presented as justification for the decision sounds like a pretext,” said Koumoutsakos.

Turkish media suggested that reports about Dalaras’s criticism of the occupation in Cyprus played a role in the cancellation.

“I imagine that because we are in an election campaign, perhaps certain people were able to aggravate the situation by writing inaccuracies that could have led to this cancellation,” said Dalaras, who suggested the move was aimed at the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate. “I did not expect this, we set out with very good intentions… to sing songs about our two peoples,” added Dalaras, who is also a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency.

Greece’s first hydrogen powered submarine July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Technology.
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Air Products, in partnership with Hellas Air Pro Ltd., recently supplied a new state of the art submarine of the Hellenic Navy with hydrogen.

This is the first fueling of this kind in Greece and took place in Skaramanga, near Athens. Prior to this event, Air Products had supplied the integral components of the hydrogen fueling station to Howaldtswerke, Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW), who owns the design of the submarine and who supplied the fueling station to Greece.

The HDW Class 214 submarine has a fuel cell-generated power supply, allowing it to operate entirely on hydrogen. The fuel cell, which produces electrical energy from oxygen and hydrogen, allows the new submarine to cruise under water for weeks without resurfacing. Conventional diesel-electric submarines typically deplete their battery power after a few days cruising under water. In addition, the fuel cell makes no noise and produces no detectable exhaust heat, in turn making the submarine virtually undetectable.

The fueling technology is based on Air Products’ unique cryogenic hydrogen compressors (CHCs), which are used in conventional hydrogen supplies, as well as in bus fueling applications. Over 33,000 vehicle fuelings have already taken place using Air Products’ technology.

The submarine was built by Hellenic Shipyards S.A., part of the new North European shipyard concern ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, who also owns HDW. Hellenic Shipyards is planning to build further fuel cell-powered submarines for the Hellenic Navy, under a HDW license. Additional contracts are in place to add plug-in fuel cell sections into conventional driven submarines.

Related Links > http://www.airproducts.com

Cyprus commemorates victims in 1974 military coup July 16, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied.
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The wailing of sirens resounded over Cyprus at 08:20 local time on Sunday, the very time when a coup was engineered by the military junta ruling Greece at that time, in an attempt to unite the island with Greece on July 15th, 1974.

cyprus_remembers.jpg  A woman at the Aghios Constantinos and Eleni Cemetery in Nicosia stands by the graves of Cypriot soldiers killed during the invasion of the island 33 years ago by Turkish forces, yesterday. The anniversary was marked with ceremonies in Cyprus and Greece.

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and other high ranking officials attended a ceremony held at a church for those killed during the 1974 military coup. Papadopoulos also laid wreaths at the tombs of coup victims at a cemetery in Nicosia.

Cyprus was divided in July 2oth, 1974, when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following the coup.

The United Nations, joined by the European Union in recent years, have kept pushing the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides to negotiate a solution to the three-decade-long problem. But the island still remains split due to lack of trust between the two communities and refusal of their leaderships to make significant compromises.