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Douvalidis wins European gold > flying over all obstacles July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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Douvalidis breaks 110-meter hurdles record, wins European gold

constantinos_douvalidis.jpg  Constantinos Douvalidis clocked 13.49 seconds at the European U23 Athletics Championship in Hungary.

Constantinos Douvalidis shaved another five hundredths of a second off his National record on Saturday as he took gold in the 110-meter hurdles at the European Under-23 Athletics Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

The Greek Champion from Drama town, clocked 13.49 seconds to win Greece’s only gold medal at the event. It was the third time this year Douvalidis has broken the record at the distance, following his 13.59 seconds at the Greek Championship in June and 13.54 seconds at the Tsiklitiria Meeting at the Olympic Stadium on July 2.

In Debrecen he finished ahead of Belgium’s Adrien Deghelt (13.59) and Italy’s Emanuele Abate (13.66). The event’s organizers put on Zorba the Greek for Douvalidis to celebrate just after crossing the finish line, in what was a most memorable moment for this rising star’s career.

“I am extremely pleased and very happy,” he said after his win started sinking in. “I enjoyed the race and had a great challenge that helped me achieve the record time. I raised my arms and celebrated just before the finish line because I was so happy to see I would be finishing first. This year I have had many problems with injuries at the start of my training, but today I had confidence and got in to win the race. I am still young and I have time ahead for better races and more success, as long as I am healthy,” said an ecstatic Douvalidis.

He was quite reserved about his immediate future, suggesting that his goal at the moment cannot be the coming World Championships in Osaka, Japan. “I am planning for the Olympic Games in Beijing next year instead,” he stated.

Greece’s only other medal in the championship came in the women’s high jump, with Antonia Stergiou winning silver. She jumped 1.92 meters with her third effort, finishing just behind Russia’s Svetlana Shkolina, who made the same height with her first effort. Ebba Jungmark from Sweden finished third (1.89m).

“This event was particularly important for me so I am very pleased. I showed that I can perform well also in major competitions by making the jumps I want. Gradually I will get to reach my potential in major competitions, I am certain about that,” said Stergiou.


Greece’s U19 start Euro finals with a win July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Greece’s Under-19 soccer team started well in the final phase of the European Championship in Austria, beating Portugal 1-0 yesterday.

Nikos Nioplias’s boys dominated the game and scored after an excellent solo effort by Sotiris Ninis and a left-footed shot from Elin Dimoutsos after 52 minutes. Goalkeeper Apostolis Androutsos made two great saves in the last half hour to ensure his team’s victory.

The Greeks’ next opponent will be hosts Austria tomorrow. A top-two finish in the group that also includes Spain will take Greece to the semifinals of the championship.

Greece’s National treasure July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Nature.
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Greece has an extremely rich and distinct flora, more than 5,700 species, corresponding to 45-50 percent of all European and 80 percent of Balkan flora.

About 764 taxa, species and sub-species, are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as being rare, vulnerable or threatened endemic species. The rarest are mostly found on mountains and islands. Greece has, considering its size, the highest percentage of endemic plants in Europe and the Mediterranean.

“These plants found exclusively in Greece are a treasures of international importance, whose conservation will benefit future generations, not only in Greece, but throughout the world.” As they are so rare, many of Greece’s endemic species are at risk of extinction because of human activities.

Rare orchids from Chios island > The orchids of Chios are today much in demand by amateur naturalists and nursery owners. The island is home to 76 of Europe’s 250 species of orchids. Their beauty and rarity have led specialized overseas travel agencies to hold excursions for nature-lovers to the island, at a cost of up to 10,000 euros per person, a price which include tours of Chios mountains to see the rare plants up close.

Foreign and Greek botanists have drawn attention to the importance of Chios’s flora. Recently, a foreign amateur botanist asked a Chios nature expert to show him where rare orchids were growing. The Chiot obliged, but the next year realized that some of these had been uprooted. He concluded that the foreigner had secretly used a GPS system to pinpoint the orchids’ position so as to be able to come back to the precise spot and remove them.

Greek native flora seeked from botanical gardens abroad July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Nature.
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Some species threatened with extinction > In contravention of international regulations, hundreds of rare plant species have been removed from mountain habitats

The Cephalonian fir is one of the 115 rare endemic plants in Greece that has been found on sale in Britain. The species is harder to find in its native country.

For 130 years, the Adonis cyllenea, a yellow anemone from the Peloponnese, was considered extinct until a few clusters were recently discovered on a rugged mountainside. Yet for decades, any Dane or Swede has been able view this lovely flower in the botanic gardens of Copenhagen or Gothenburg, where the Adonis cyllenea graces the Greek flora sections among dozens of species native to Greece.

This is just one example of the hundreds of rare plants that have been removed from Greek mountains over the past three centuries. Now the Balkan Botanic Gardens of Krousia, at Pontokerasia in the prefecture of Kilkis, northern Greece, has begun a campaign to have them returned.

Greece’s endemic plant species, which grow nowhere else in the world, can be seen in botanical gardens in several European cities but are absent from Greek collections. Greek botanists have reported several of them on sale at private nurseries, yet there are either very few, if any, still growing in the wild in Greece, and those usually in inaccessible places.

At a meeting of Planta Europa to be held this September in Bucharest, Romania, with representatives from all over Europe, the BBKK is to raise the issue of repatriating Greek plants from botanical gardens and foundations around Europe in an attempt to put an end to the “Greek Plants’ Odyssey” as their report is titled.

Already, in accordance with international conventions on the exchange of plant material, three European botanical gardens, those in Paris, Copenhagen and Berlin, responded to a request from the BBKK and sent genetic material for the reproduction of rare Greek plants.

“We have begun creating a separate section of repatriated species. Later we are planning to exhibit them as decorative and pharmaceutical species,” said Eleni Maloupa, head of the BBKK and researcher at the National Foundation for Agricultural Research.

An estimated 500 endemic species have been removed from Greece for reasons that are not difficult to explain. “Greece, along with most countries in the Balkans,” said Maloupa, “is home to the richest and most interesting native flora in Europe.”

Since 1700, many famous botanists, plant geographers and taxonomists from Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Hungary and naturally Britain have been collecting plants from various parts of the Balkans and Greece, giving their own names to hundreds of plant species. Impressed by the richness, beauty and rarity of the flora, many scientists, particularly recently, have exported living native plants, mostly for scientific purposes, apart from the thousands of dried plants.

Rare plants from Greece are still cultivated and exhibited in several European botanical gardens and herbaria, including in Berlin, Copenhagen, Cambridge, Gothenburg, Paris, Florence, Edinburgh. Most organizations realize that collecting rare plant species creates a major problem for Greece and other Balkan countries.

“Arbitrary exploratory missions of botanical interest, exploration by private individuals, the dangers posed by amateur naturalists, botanists or gardeners who uproot plants for transplanting into their own gardens or private collections are actions that are unequivocally condemned by the international community,” said Nikos Krigas, a researcher and biologist at Aristotle University’s Systematic Botany and Plant Geography Laboratory. “Moreover, many rare endemic Greek plant species are sold on various markets, but in Greece are hard to find,” he added.

He cites the example of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant Finder (1999-2000) that includes rare endemic species from Greece in the Red Data Book of Rare and Threatened Plants in sections II and IV of the European Union Directive 92.43 and on the World Conservation Monitoring Center’s lists.

In all, 115 different rare endemic Greek species, more than 15 percent of all Greece’s endemic species, have been found at various sale points in Britain. Typical among these, said Krigas, are the Cretan endemic Origanum dictamus, Campanula incurva, central and southeastern Greece, or the Helichrysum sibthorpii from Mt Athos, which is also included in the International Berne Convention.

Just a few other examples are Abies cephlonica, Cephalonian fir, Campanula andewsii, Crocus hadriaticus and Crocus cartwrightianus, Fritillaria spetsiotica and Fritillaria thessala subsp. Ionica, Ebenus cretica, Viola athois.

Although it is clearly set out in Paragraph 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio 1992) regarding access to a country’s phytogenetic resources, the Greek authorities have not issued any official permit for collecting plant material from the natural environment, and no official agreement has yet been signed, according to Greek botanists.

“Unfortunately, access to Greece’s phytogenetic resources appears to be open to all and there is no control over the profits earned by foreign organizations and individuals trading in them,” said Maloupa. “The BBKK appeals to all botanic gardens and other organizations for the purpose of repatriating documented plant material collected from the wild in Greece and the Balkans and taken to other countries before or after the Convention on Biodiversity was signed.”

Hellenic SeaWays’ plans for the Athens Stock Exchange July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Transport Air Sea Land.
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Hellenic SeaWays (HSW) has set its course straight for the Athens Stock Exchange in the next few months, in order to fund the acquisition of new vessles for its coastal shipping fleet, said the firm’s main shareholder Panos Laskaridis yesterday at the presentation of HSW’s new ship, the Nissos Chios.

Laskaridis said his company intends to expand beyond the Aegean Sea and to tackle the so-called seasonal factor of coastal shipping. He also suggested that the entry of foreign players into the Greek market is no coincidence, so HSW must follow developments and perhaps intervene where necessary, he said.

The company’s CEO Gerasimos Strintzis referred to the firm’s new investment plans, saying the potential of the international shipbuilding market will be scanned, including Greek shipyards.

Separately, listed coastal shipper ANEK announced the acquisition of a ferry boat named Ferry Tsukuba from Japan for 30 million.

Eastern Athens threatened by fire July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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Hymettus blaze curbed after nearing homes

A forest fire that broke out early yesterday afternoon at the foot of Mount Hymettus, in eastern Athens, was contained after threatening several houses, a children’s home and a military base. No injuries or damage to buildings was reported.

Thick black smoke engulfed much of the capital as the fire spread quickly, fanned by strong winds reaching up to 8 on the Beaufort scale. Police closed off a kilometer stretch of Katehaki Avenue, a major road linking the suburbs to the city center, causing traffic chaos. Some districts near the fire were hit by cuts to power and water supplies.

It was unclear what started the blaze but authorities were investigating the possibility of arson after several witnesses claimed to have seen several fires breaking out at the same time.

The fire was extinguished within three hours following a mammoth rescue effort involving six water-dropping aircraft, three helicopters and some 100 firefighters. The fire service remained on standby last night to extinguish a possible rekindling.

During their efforts to contain the blaze, firefighters discovered a weapons cache which had been hidden in the forest. The cache included a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a hand grenade, a shotgun and several rounds of ammunition. Police could not say where the weapons had come from or who may have hidden them.

Several other fires were reported around Greece yesterday, including blazes in northern Evia and in Pelasgia, in Fthiotida prefecture. There were also fires on Kos and in Pirgos, western Peloponnese.

In Cyprus, a large fire forced the evacuation of two villages in the island’s south, between the resorts of Larnaca and Limassol. There were no reports of any injuries.

According to forestry experts, the fact that Attica’s forests have not been purged of garbage, weeds and other flammable substances helps fuel fires. “There is no forest management and so every time we have conditions like those today, a large fire is inevitable,” said Aristotelis Papageorgiou, a forestry expert at the University of Thrace.

Greek book market is growing July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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The book publication sector in Greece is characterized by the large number of enterprises in the business of book publication and importing, a survey by ICAP said on Monday.

The survey noted that the small size of most enterprises in the business offered flexibility and specialization but also created problems such as reduced liquidity.

The book publication market is widely open, with larger enterprises in the sector presenting only limited market shares. A total of 730 publishers were active in the Greek market in 2006, up from 374 in 1996. ICAP stressed, however, that larger enterprises were increasingly strengthening their position in the market at the expense of small and medium sized publishers.

Book prices grew by 4.5 pct in the 1995-2006 period, while the number of new book titles rose by 9.0 percent in 2006 compared with the previous year. ICAP said the Greek book market’s value grew by 8.8 pct in 2005 and by 8.9 pct in 2006.