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Water on Cyprus is rationed March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Nature.
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Authorities on the island of Cyprus announced Monday that they were immediately reducing the water supply to people’s homes to cope with a “dramatic” drought that has left dams nearly empty.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said supply cuts of 30 percent were a “necessary measure” in light of a 17-million-cubic-meter (600-million-cubic-feet) shortfall in water reserves. The island needs 66.7 million cubic meters (2.35 billion cubic feet) a year to cover its needs.

“We’ve initiated a number of measures to tackle the truly dramatic situation we’re facing,” Stefanou told reporters. Stefanou said the government would reduce by almost a third the supply to local water boards that distribute water to homes. The cuts will take effect at once. Other measures include the construction of pipelines to feed local reservoirs with water that will be shipped from Greece in tankers five months from now.

Authorities also plan to double the daily output from a desalination plant now being built, to 40,000 cubic meters (1.4 million cubic feet) by October. Cyprus already has two operating desalination plants with a combined daily output of 92,000 cubic meters (3.2 million cubic feet) and the government will look into using more portable units.

Stefanou said officials will bore more into the island’s water table. A water conservation campaign will also be stepped up.

Meanwhile, officials will draw up a long-term strategy to help the island effectively deal with chronic shortages caused by its heavy dependence on rainfall. Capacity at the island’s dams now stands at just over 10 percent, 2.5 times less than their capacity at this time last year. Compounding the lack of rain are record-setting temperatures for March that reached Monday to 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit).

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Traianos Dellas to miss Greece’s Portugal friendly March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Greece has traveled to Germany for a friendly match against Portugal in Dusseldorf tonight without key central defender Traianos Dellas.

Coach Otto Rehhagel has not called up a replacement for Dellas on the experienced squad he has chosen following experiments in recent friendlies against the Czech Republic and Finland. OFI goalkeeper Alexis Tsorvas, an impressive performer this season, is the only new face on the Greek squad.

Rehhagel is expected to decide later this week whether he will remain with Greece for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. His current contract ends after Euro 2008.

Piraeus port poised to tap benefits March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Piraeus port poised to tap benefits of Greek shipowners’ flight from British capital > More than 1,200 shipping companies, employing more than 12,000 highly specialized staff, were based in the port of Piraeus in 2007, compared to 900 in 2005.

At a time when efforts are being made to ensure that Piraeus, Greece’s main port city, gains a leading place among international shipping centers by enhancing both infrastructure and services, London-based Greek shipowners are seriously considering whether to stay or move as a result of tax reforms planned by the British government.

For decades, income generated off British soil by non-British residents enjoyed tax-free treatment. More than 100 Greek shipowning families based in London are now thinking of moving to Piraeus, primarily for two reasons: significant infrastructure improvement projects have been carried out in the past six years, while the government has taken certain measures to guarantee a stable and competitive institutional environment for shipping companies.

During a recent visit to London, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis gave assurances to Greek shipowners that the government intends to maintain the favorable tax regime applicable for the Greek shipping community, which controls 8.7 percent of the world fleet, with 4,173 vessels. This translates into a capacity of 260,929,221 dwt (deadweight tons), which represents 16.4 percent of overall world shipping.

“We are considering taking additional measures in favor of shipowners who might move their base to Greece,” Voulgarakis is said to have told a gathering of Greek shipowners. “We are going ahead with the creation of a cluster arrangement, based on international standards and Greek features, aimed at promoting Piraeus as a shipping center with global linkages.”

In Greece, shipping companies are not taxed either on income earned abroad or on property purchases and income from capital denominated in US dollars. In 2007, foreign exchange inflows to Greece from shipping amounted to 17 billion, a figure that accounts for 7 percent of the country’s GDP.

The contribution of Greek companies to the British economy is estimated at some $10 billion annually. A study by the British Chamber of Shipping showed that if Greek shipowners decided to leave the city, the economy will lose almost one billion pounds, not to mention some 120,000 professionals in medium and high-ranking executive posts, who will have to move out with their families.

The British government is planning certain changes for non-citizens living in the country, who in the coming years would have to pay 30,000 pounds ($62,000) if they want to avoid paying tax on income from abroad.

But London’s losses could be Piraeus’s gain, in the framework of legislation that is supportive of shipping operations. In the past six years, 30 shipping firms have set sail for Piraeus and Athens. London-based shipowners believe that a significant upgrade of Piraeus port could result in a large influx of companies from the British capital.

Greek Government keen to expedite OTE deal with Deutsche Telekom March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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Equal equity and management shares; unions cagey about job assurances > OTE workers raised the German flag to protest plans for a DT share in management.

Consultations are gathering pace for the finalization of a deal between the government, OTE telecom’s main shareholder, and Deutsche Telekom (DT), which last week agreed to buy a 20 percent stake of OTE from buyout firm Marfin Investment Group (MIG). The talks concern DT’s possible purchase of a further stake from the government, which now owns about 28 percent.

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told Eleftherotypia newspaper on Sunday that the government was also willing to share the management of the country’s largest telecommunications company but the form it may take would be determined by the negotiations.

The government is anxious for a speedy conclusion, fearing union opposition and stock market speculation in OTE shares. Yesterday, investment bank Credit Suisse downgraded OTE’s target share price from 26 euros to 22.50. Officials are apprehensive that any sharp decline in the OTE share price would undermine the DT-MIG agreement and scuttle any further developments.

Meanwhile, OTE unions (OME-OTE) began preparing protests against any deal with DT, fearing it may jeopardize jobs in future. A three-day strike is due to begin today. At a meeting on Saturday, OTE CEO Panagis Vourloumis assured unionists that legislation passed last year, which obliges the government to keep a minimum 20 percent share, also provides for no dismissals. Earlier on Friday, Alogoskoufis told OME-OTE officials that the government’s intention was to keep a 25 percent stake plus one share, on a par with DT, which would make them equal partners.

He also said both sides would have veto rights protected by legislation. Alogoskoufis added that the Germans had proposed retaining Vourloumis as CEO, with which the government agreed. Vourloumis urged the unions to refrain from strikes, as this would only benefit competitors, and said the deal would improve OTE’s future prospects.

OME-OTE pressed Alogoskoufis for a separate agreement on job security, to which they would be a party. The Minister referred them to Vourloumis, who said this was a matter to be decided by the new management that would emerge from negotiations. It was after this that the three-day strike was called.

The Ministerial privatizations committee is meeting either today or tomorrow to appoint the government’s consultants who will negotiate with the Germans. It is considered likely that UBS, Credit Suisse and Eurobank will be retained, as they are already well acquainted with the matter.

Mighty show of the Greeks at the Europeans March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Aquatics.
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Greek swimmers end competition at Eindhoven event with two gold and two silver medals

26-03-08_greek_swimmers.jpg  Yiannis Drymonakos (l) added a fourth medal (silver in the men’s 400 m medley) to Greece’s tally at the Europeans on Monday night.

The Greek National Team’s showing at the European Swimming Championships, which ended Monday night, proved successful yet paradoxical should performance be measured in numbers alone. Greek swimmers struck gold for the first time ever at European-level competition, twice for that matter, and also raked in two silver medals.

All four medals were won by two swimmers, Yiannis Drymonakos and Aris Grigoriadis, who each won a gold and silver medal. But the number of Greeks who qualified for finals fell again, as has invariably been the case in recent years.

There were a total of seven Greek entries in finals at the Eindhoven, the Netherlands, event. Two years earlier in Madrid, where the level of competition was lower, Greece’s finalist tally reached 13. Even so, the National Team had never won a gold medal since the Europeans were launched in 1926.

But this was accomplished twice in Eindhoven. Yiannis Drymonakos won the gold medal in the men’s 200-meter butterfly with a new European record time of 1.54:16, which ranks as the second-fastest performance of all time behind Michael Phelps, the renowned American record holder. Drymonakos added a silver medal to his tally on closing night, Monday, in the men’s 400-meter medley. He set a new National record, 4.14:72.

“I didn’t expect to break the record after the butterfly, where I gave it my all. It was difficult to stay in shape,” said Drymonakos. “I was really tired after qualifying and I felt a lot of pressure because everybody expected me to win a medal.”

Aristidis Grigoriadis won Greece’s other gold medal in the men’s 50-meter backstroke with a time of 25.13 seconds. He also won a silver medal in the men’s 100-meter men’s backstroke.

Sport and Democracy in Classical Athens March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology, Greek Culture Heritage, Olympic Games, Sports & Games.
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University of Sydney historian explains why he thinks evidence suggests that sporting activity did not help promote peace in ancient Greece

26-03-08_ancient_olympia1.jpg  26-03-08_ancient_olympia2.jpg  Male dancers (above) form the Olympic circles with olive branches during a rehearsal for the lighting of the flame in Ancient Olympia, where the Olympics were born in 776 BC. Actress Maria Nafpliotou (right), in her role as the high priestess at the actual ceremony on Monday, holds up the Olympic Flame after it was lit using the sun’s rays.

Sport in ancient Athens has long been a paradox for ancient historians. The world’s first democracy may have opened up politics to everybody but it had no impact on sporting life. Athletics continued to be an exclusive pursuit of wealthy citizens.

In spite of this, the vast majority of the citizens, who as poor men were very critical of the aristocracy, actually lavished time and public money on sporting competitions and facilities, esteemed elite sports stars above all other public figures and handed international victors the metaphorical keys to the city.

Recent scholarship on sport and war helps us solve this baffling state of affairs. In the lead-up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, we are constantly reminded of the cherished belief of the Olympic movement that international sport reconciles hostile countries and encourages world peace.

As noble as this may be, a generation of scholarship has shown this belief to be almost entirely false. Sport and war – we know now – often manifest the same values and practices, such as aggressiveness and cruelty, and tend to legitimize each other. As such, the military hyperactivity of the ancient Athenian democracy gives us a clue to understanding the paradox of its sporting life.

Panathenaia > The Athenians provided tens of thousands of liters of sacred olive oil and silver crowns as prizes for sportsmen at their local games of the Great Panathenaia. This was the large-scale version of the city’s annual festival in honor of its patron deity, Athena, which was staged every four years.

It included over a hundred contests or bouts, not just in athletics and the athletic team event of the torch race, but also in horsemanship, music and choral singing. The people of Athens also carefully administered and renovated the city’s athletics fields and witnessed a massive expansion in the number of wrestling schools.

They awarded free meals and front-row seating at their regular sporting and cultural events for life to those citizens who had won an athletic or equestrian event at one of the Panhellenic or international games, which were staged,every two or four years at Isthmia, Nemea, Delphi and, of course, Olympia.

Since these were the democracy’s highest honors, their granting to athletic victors points to an extraordinarily high estimation of these stars. Such a high regard of athletes also left its mark on the irreverent comedies of the 5th century BC, in which the city’s athletes were the only group in the public eye to escape the abuse and ridicule of the comic poets.

For the youths of classical Athens, training in athletics was given in the regular school classes of the athletics teacher. Isocrates explains how they instruct their pupils in “the moves devised for competition,” train them in athletics, accustom them to toil and compel them to combine each of the lessons they have learnt. According to this Athenian philosopher, all of this turns pupils into competent athletic competitors as long as they have some natural talent.

Sports and learning > Often athletics teachers are represented in Athenian art as giving classes in wrestling or in the other “heavy” events of boxing and the “no holds barred” pankration, which is an unsurprising state of affairs, as many of these teachers owned wrestling schools and some had been victors in such events in their youth. Nonetheless we also find athletics teachers training their charges in the standard “track and field” events of ancient Greek athletics.

Predictably the expense of buying and raising horses ensured that contestants in the chariot and horse races would always be those Aeschylus calls the “super-rich,” such as leading politicians, tyrants and Kings. More surprising is that athletics was out of reach to the vast majority of Athenians.

Since the Athenian state did not finance nor administer education, each family made its own decisions about how long their sons would attend school and whether they would pursue each of the three traditional disciplines: athletics, music and letters.

The Athenians understood very well that the number of educational disciplines a boy could pursue and the length of his schooling depended on the resources of his family. Money determined not only whether a family could pay the fees of the letter teacher, lyre [a musical instrument] teacher and athletics teacher but also whether they could give their sons the required leisure to pursue disciplines that were taught concurrently.

Most poor citizens needed their children and wives to help out with family farming or business concerns. As a result, poor Athenian families passed over music and athletics and sent their sons only to the lessons of the letter teacher, which they believed to be the most useful for moral and practical instruction.

Thus it was only wealthy boys who received instruction in each of the three disciplines of education. Without school-based training in athletics, which everyone recognized as necessary for effective competition, poor youths simply did not enter athletics contests. In the world’s first democracy, sport was only practiced by wealthy Athenians.

There were other activities in classical Athens, such as the drinking party, horsemanship, pederastic homosexuality and political leadership, which were also the exclusive preserves of the wealthy.

However these upper-class pursuits – in contrast to athletics – were ridiculed and heavily criticized in the debates and public conversations of the democracy. Poor Athenians may have hoped to enjoy, one day, the lifestyle of the rich, but they still had problems with their exclusive pursuits, frequently associating them with stereotypical misdeeds of this social class.

Into battle > Critically, classical Athenians thought of and described athletic contests and battle with a common set of concepts and words. Most importantly, both were considered an agon or a contest decided by mutually agreed rules.

Today, when even democracies sometimes wage war contrary to international law and break the Geneva Convention, it is hard to recognize that European warfare was once a highly regulated activity and viewed as an honorable way to settle disputes between states.

The battles of the ancient Greeks were no exception, being conducted according to a shared set of nomoi or customs. Thus a Greek city informed another of its intention to attack by sending a herald. By agreement, their phalanxes of heavy infantrymen met on an agricultural plain. After hours of hand-to-hand fighting, the decisive moment was the trope or turning, when the hoplites of one side broke up and ran for their lives.

The victors only pursued them for a short distance, as they had much left to do on the field of battle. There they collected the bodies of their dead comrades, stripped the bodies of the enemy, and used some of the weapons and armor so acquired to set up a trophaion or trophy. When the defeated had time to regroup, they sent a herald to those controlling the battlefield for a truce to collect their dead. Custom dictated that the victors could not honorably refuse this request.

The citizens of classical Athens also thought battle and athletics involved the same ideals and tribulations. Both activities were recognized as involving ponoi or painful toils bring honor and kindinoi or dangers, with athletes, especially in the “heavy” events, frequently being injured, maimed or killed.

They believed it was the arete or manly excellence of individual soldiers and athletes, inherited from ancestors, and the support of gods and demigods, which secured nike or victory. Victory brought fame to the city of athlete and soldier, while defeat or the refusal to compete, in either activity, was a sign of cowardice and a cause of personal shame.

Although Athenian warfare, before the democracy, was a predominantly upper-class activity, the democratic revolution of the late 6th century BC subjected warfare to a profound democratization practically and ideologically. With the creation of a city-based army of hoplites, the construction of a massive war fleet, in the late 480s, and the introduction of state pay for military service, soldiering – like politics – was opened to every class of Athenian.

Democracy > To fight and, if necessary, die for the city became the solemn duty of all citizens, which, in an unprecedented era of Athenian bellicosity, they did with disturbing regularity. Warfare was now the main public expenditure and business of the Athenian democracy and its martial achievements were glorified in public speech, drama and public art and architecture.

Critically the egalitarianism of the democracy resulted in the traditional values of war, such as arete and ponoi, which had once been the preserve of the heroes of Homer and the aristocrats of the pre-democratic era, being recognized in the military actions of rich and poor citizens alike, whether they served as heavily armed infantrymen or sailors.

This democratic ethos also saw every Athenian soldier given equal credit for the city’s military victories and – if killed in action – a sumptuous funeral and veneration as a demigod. Every Athenian soldier was now treated like Achilles or Hector.

This democratization of war had a profound impact on the standing of athletics. Poor Athenians came to believe that upper-class athletes exhibited the same moral qualities and experienced the same ordeals as they did when fighting battles.

This affinity of theirs with the values of sport ruled out serious criticism of sportsmen in public discourse and underwrote the exceptionally high estimation of athletics. In short, the democratic style of war in classical Athens legitimized and supported elite sport.

Dr David Pritchard is an ancient historian at the University of Sydney. He will be speaking at the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens, 2 Promachou Street, Makriyianni, Athens, on April 1 at 7 p.m. This talk is free and open to the general public.

Copyright notice > Article by Dr David Pritchard for the Greek daily Kathimerini. All rights reserved.

Ancient Olympia protesters are released March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Olympic Games.
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Outburst prompts reactions > Three human rights demonstrators arrested for disrupting Monday’s flame-lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia to protest China’s crackdown in Tibet were freed yesterday.

The three French journalists, members of the French media rights group Reporters Without Borders, said they had not intended to criticize Greece but to contest Beijing’s right to host this year’s Olympics.

It seemed that their outburst had some impact. Questioned by reporters after the incident, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would consider a personal boycott of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony if China refuses to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on Tibet. «All options are open and I appeal to the Chinese leaders’ sense of responsibility» Sarkozy said. The White House said US President George W. Bush still intends to attend the Games.

The incident embarrassed Greek authorities, who had planned a large-scale security operation. The three protesters bypassed guards to access the ancient Olympia site. One ran up behind a Chinese Olympic official who had been delivering a speech to a large crowd of dignitaries, including Greece’s President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and unfurled a black flag depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs.

The disruption was aired briefly on state television, which then cut away from the protester being dragged off by police and zoomed in on the Chinese spokesman. In China, state television did not broadcast the incident, cutting to prerecorded footage. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials yesterday condemned «these elements of sabotage and chaos.»

Greek government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros also criticized «actions that have nothing to do with the Olympic spirit

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, who was also at the ceremony, said, «It is always sad to see such a ceremony disrupted.» Before the ceremony, Rogge had admitted to fearing possible hijacks of the torch relay.

The torch yesterday reached Ioannina in northwestern Greece. The flame is to be handed over to the Chinese in a ceremony at Athens’s Panathenaic Stadium on March 30.

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