Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Olympic village open for inspection


A view of the Olympic Village, northwest of central Athens. Control of the Olympic Village officially passed to games organizers onThursday.


Control of the Olympic Village officially passed to games organizers Thursday, a day before heads of teams arrive to inspect the complex.

"The Olympic village will be the heart of the games," said chief Olympic organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. "It is an emotional moment."

The village opens its doors to athletes on July 30, but heads of the teams are scheduled to arrive in Greece on Friday.

Construction of the site in the Menidi suburb, about 15km northwest of central Athens, was beset by the same delays that hampered Athens' overall preparations. Several workers were killed at the site during its construction, with unions blaming the intense work schedule for the accidents.

During the Aug. 13-29 Games, the village will be home to about 16,000 athletes and officials, including the Greek team and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.

The US$397 million complex includes a hospital, drug test center, places of worship, and restaurant, plus a swimming pool, a track, two gyms.

The site will be heavily guarded with a double perimeter fence bristling with cameras and sensors, and rooted in cement blocks designed to prevent a car bomb attack, the head of Olympic village security Nikolaos Davilas said.

"This site will have more security than another Olympic facility," Davilas said.

Elite police units with dogs will patrol the village around the clock, setting up checkpoints as far as 3.5km away.

Police escorts will be given to all athletes from countries considered to be at risk of an attack when they leave the village and everything entering the site -- even shopping deliveries -- will be put through security scanners, he said.

Labor minister Panos Panayiotopoulos handed Angelopoulos-Daskalaki a symbolic key to the village.

"This Olympic village ... was built with money of the Greek people and primarily with the sweat and the hard work and the money of the workers here in Greece," Panayiotopoulos said.

After the Paralympics in September, the village will convert to housing for low-income workers, while clothes donated by athletes after the games will be given to refugees.

Also Thursday, the Public Works Ministry opened a road that will link the village with the main Olympic complex.

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