05 August, 2003
The countdown to the 2004 Athens Games continued on Monday at a distant venue that has epitomized the challenges and obstacles faced by Athens organizers (ATHOC) – the Schinias Olympic Rowing Centre.
The nearly completed Schinias facility, northeast of Athens proper, opened its doors with a high-profile ceremony 48 hours before the World Rowing Junior Championships (FISA 2003) begin, as Schinias will host the first Olympic 'test event' of 2003.
Speaking to reporters before an opening ceremony complete with a parade of athletes, ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said the inaugural ''test event'' of 2003 is a chance to evaluate procedures, human resources and facilities a whole year before the Games, ''in a world-class sports facility that was created in an area where the environment was neglected and where an old airstrip was found, while at the same time, the wetlands and the surrounding forestlands were returned to their original state.''
Meanwhile, IOC executive and Athens 2004 coordination commission chairman Denis Oswald, in his capacity as FISA's president at the ceremony, however, thanked ATHOC for its efforts.
The new venue, which lies only a stone’s throw away from the ancient battle field of Marathon, initially caused a modern-day ''battle” between environmentalists (part of Schinias lies on a previous poorly treated wetlands), historians and archaeologists, on the one side, and the Greek government and ATHOC, on the other. The IOC and even the European Commission, in the end, approved of ATHOC's choice of Schinias.
The latter side won out, and after the venue's completion in late October to late November this autumn, according to ATHOC Executive Director Marton Simitsek, it will have completely transformed the area.
Simitsek added that more than 960 people (ATHOC personnel, volunteers and security staff) will work during the Games, while some 642 individuals (athletes, judges and sports federation officials) have been accredited. He noted that the venue was de-livered to ATHOC on July 27, with the organizers setting up air-conditioned tents for some operations that will be replaced by pre-fabricated buildings for next year's Games.
The rowing ''test event'' begins on Wednesday and lasts until Friday, with a total of 46 countries and more than 550 athletes participating.
Source: Athens News Agency