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Transport links still have a long way to go

VITAL TRANSPORT infrastructure to support the Athens Olympics was still incomplete this week as the city prepared for the August 13 opening ceremony.

Only two of the three new stations on Athens' extended metro system are finished and a bus terminal and several car parks across the city are waiting to be surfaced.

The city's new tram system has come into use within the last two weeks, but is experiencing teething problems.

On the metro, Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias metro stations were opened last week but Aghios Antonios station is still being finished.

Spectators will need to use this station to reach the Olympic Boxing Hall.

The station was only officially included in the Olympics construction programme last year.

'The station was supposed to be ready for October so everything on the project had to be accelerated, ' said client Attiko Metro's construction manager Iannis Doulakis.

Assistant construction manager George Giannaras said that site hours were increased from five to 15 hours a day to meet the new programme's requirements.

The stations at Doukissis Plakentias and Halandri link the underground metro system with the overground rail connection to Eliftherios Venizelos airport.

Trains on the airport link only became operational last Friday.

'It was a small miracle that we got the airport connection ready in time - many didn't believe we would, ' said community relations specialist at Attiko Metro Harris Tsimatsis.

The bus terminal and park and ride schemes next to Doukissis Plakentias station are far from ready.

Underground cables are still being laid, the lift connecting the metro to the suburban railway is yet to be installed and the whole area still needs to be asphalted.

Athens' new tram system started running between the coastal suburbs and the city centre on 19 July. But clashes between cars and trams, coupled with difficulties over traffic light phasing, have caused problems since opening.

Athens car drivers are unaccustomed to giving way to other vehicles, so police are managing traffic at intersections with the tram system.

'This is a new transport system so everyone must learn how to share the road, ' said an Athens Tram spokesman.

There have been 'seven little accidents' according to the spokesman, even though trams have been running at lower than normal speed.

The Greek transport ministry has ruled that trams should stop 2km from the city centre to reduce congestion during the Olympics.

'The trams will stop at Neo Kosmas because people can then use the metro to get to Olympic venues, ' said the spokesman.

The Marathon road widening was also completed last week. This will be used to stage the marathon running race although the start area is still unfinished.

Roads leading to the Olympic village are now complete, with security guarding the entrance much tighter than it was when NCE visited the site three months ago.

Waterside ceremony gives way to turf

THE OLYMPIC opening ceremony will see the pitch in the centre of the main stadium transformed into a lake while a frenzy of fireworks is set off from the famous Santiago Calatrava roof.

The area enclosed by the athletics track will be filled with 450mm of water to create the lake. During the ceremony this will be drained through a 12m diameter 'plug hole'.

The hole connects with a 25m diameter 20m deep chamber beneath the stadium. A cut and cover tunnel connects the chamber to the outside of the arena.

During the ceremony, a hydraulically operated platform plugs the hole.

After the opening ceremony, turf will be brought into the stadium on palettes.

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