Council of World Hellenes Abroad Vice President for North and South America Christos Tomaras has sent a letter to the Associated Press, protesting Tim Dahlberg’s report on Olympic preparations in Athens, titled “In ancient Athens, a frantic struggle to get ready for the Olympics.” The article was raising questions about how the Greek government was handling the issue of traffic, stray dogs and legal prostitution. Mr. Tomaras’ letter follows:
“More important than the many factual errors in your “colorful” piece for the AP on the Athens 2004 Olympic Games is your inexplicable choice of focus for the article. Unless you would have us believe that the readers, listeners and viewers of the media who subscribe to the AP are truly interested in the minutiae of city life in Athens, you have wasted the opportunity your editors and privileged position afford you.
First, many of your observations can be made of any major city more than 150 years old. Second, you devote a quarter of the space entrusted to you by your editors to the stray dogs of Athens and the politically-correct arguments over their destiny; but then certainly there would be no such intercourse surrounding the neat, efficient Games you predict in Beijing. Many residents of Olympic host cities turn increasingly negative as the pace of construction quickens; people in Atlanta and Sydney said exactly the same things as Ms. Barbosa. And to whom, exactly, is the news that Greece’s prostitutes demonstrated in the broiling sun of interest?
What you missed, that your AP audience probably would have preferred to learn, includes the following:
Greece is the second-smallest country to ever host a Summer Olympics;
The entire population of Greece (12 million) is the same as many metro areas;
There is a new $2.2 billion international airport already operating outside Athens, with one of the best security systems in the world;
There is a new subway system, more than 2/3 completed, and what delays exist, exist because of archaeological discoveries made during excavation;
A new “Ymittos Peripheral” highway, set to open at the end of August, 2003 will shift approx. 33% of Athens’ traffic east of the city;
A new 32 km Suburban Railway will be reaching the Athens airport and connecting the venues;
More than $1.2 million have been made available for beach clean-up;
More than $202 million is being spent to improve water quality in the Gulf of Attica (outside Athens) by 95% before the end of 2003.
But these aspects of Athens as it prepares for the 2004 Olympics would have required a bit of research on your part. Not just some Andy Rooney-esque musings by someone dashing off superficial impressions of one of the world’s oldest cities, and people.