ATHENS OLYMPICS: Gold for Athens traffic

19th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

19 August 2004 , ATHENS - Athens is experiencing a miracle of sorts now that the Olympics are underway. Contrary to expectations, all of the sports venues were finished punctually. The anticipated traffic jams have failed to materialise and both athletes and spectators are reaching the events quickly. Even the Olympic buses have not been affected by the Greek capital's notorious traffic jams. Although the tram lines have reported a few accidents. Tram driver Michalis Dendrinos says the real reason for the

19 August 2004

ATHENS - Athens is experiencing a miracle of sorts now that the Olympics are underway.

Contrary to expectations, all of the sports venues were finished punctually. The anticipated traffic jams have failed to materialise and both athletes and spectators are reaching the events quickly.

Even the Olympic buses have not been affected by the Greek capital's notorious traffic jams. Although the tram lines have reported a few accidents. 

Tram driver Michalis Dendrinos says the real reason for the series of accidents is the Greek mentality. "Greeks have not yet learnt to obey the rules of the road," he says.

He raves about Germany where he and his colleagues were trained: "People there stop at red lights and in front of tram lines almost as if they were showing respect."

Neverthless, a delighted spokesman for the city's transport authority said: "We did not expect everything to run so smoothly."

However, the moment of truth will come next week when many Athenians return home from vacation.

Greeks are quick to point out the chaos at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the lack of transport at the Sydney Games in 2000.

"Many athletes in Atlanta missed their events because they were brought to the wrong venues," the Athenian daily To Wima commented. "If that happened here, there would be uproar."

The traffic system was initially considered one of Athens' weak points for staging the Games, but it has since turned into the Olympics 2004 trump card.

Until recently, the streets beneath the Acropolis were chaotic. About 2.5 million cars and motorcycles literally crept through the city. Getting from one place to another was considered a feat of ingenuity which the strongest won. Rules of the road counted almost nothing.

A government campaign urged the population to leave their cars at home and to use public transport for the duration of the Olympics. The motto was, "We will get gold with the train, the underground and the bus."

All experts are agreed that the gold medal should be awarded to the Athenian underground system. For a metropolis of 4 million, the network was not particularly widespread and was expanded from one to three lines to accommodate Olympic traffic. The underground now transports most Olympic visitors to the sporting venues.

Traffic on tram lines, which connect central Athens with the seaside suburbs of Faliron and Glifalda, runs less smoothly. The tram began operating barely a month ago and has already had 25 accidents in 27 days.

The cause is nearly always the same - pedestrians and car drivers crossing the tracks without care. Many Athenians obviously are still not used to that means of transport.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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