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Greek PM: 'This Is The Summer of Pride'

Greek PM: 'This Is The Summer of Pride'In his first trip to the United States as Prime Minister of Greece, Tufts graduate Costas Karamanlis said that the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens will be a ‘time to remember.’ Washington D.C.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.08.04] Next week, the 2004 Olympic flame will light the streets of Los Angeles - its first stop in the United States before it continues around the world to Athens. It isn't the only reminder of the festivities to make its first official appearance in the United States. Greek Prime Minister and Tufts graduate Costas Karamanlis also recently made his first visit to the U.S. as the nation's leader - assuring Americans that preparations from the summer Games are well on their way.

"This is the summer of the Athens Games. It will be a great time to remember," Karamanlis - who graduated from The Fletcher School at Tufts - said at a recent press conference. "It took fifteen centuries for the Games to revive. It took them another century to return to Greece."

Karamanlis - who was elected Prime Minister in March with 45 percent of the vote - said that the upcoming Games will be a time to showcase his rising nation to a worldwide audience.

"For all Greeks around the world, this is the summer of pride," said the Tufts graduate. "And not only due to the Olympics. Greece celebrates three decades of stable democracy, following the 1967 military junta; in the last [20 years], European Union membership has contributed in making Greece a more confident nation. The euro has created a stable and freer economic environment. The climate in our relations with Turkey has certainly improved."

According to Karamanlis, there will be strong attendance and international participation in the event. For the first time ever, the Olympic torch will visit all five land masses represented by the Olympic rings - making its premier visits to Africa and Latin America.

"We are close in breaking all records in participation," said the Fletcher graduate. "As of April 13th - that is four months before the first day of the Games' opening ceremony - we have close to two million tickets sold, which...is approximately 22 percent higher than what the situation was in Sydney four years ago."

While security is always a concern at the Olympics, this year's bombings in Madrid and the 9/11 attack have heightened the attention paid to the issue at this summer's games. But Karamanlis (who said "Athens has spent 30 times the amount Atlanta spent on security, and at least three times that of Sydney") vowed not to let fear of terrorism ruin the celebratory event.

"We, the Greeks, but also the Americans and others - experts and workers from seven nations - have put our very best into this," he said. "To some, fear is profitable - but trust lasts longer."

He added, "We want the Athens Games to be the safest and the most inspiring Games in history, and because of this, the Games offer a unique opportunity for the world to see a changed southeast Europe."

Karamanlis said he is confident that Greece - the only E.U. member in its region - will successfully host the Games, establishing itself as a "forward-looking player in Europe."

"A tremendous amount of work has been accomplished. That doesn't mean we're sitting back. We know that the weeks and months ahead need even more effort, even more vigilance," said the Tufts graduate. "But I can look you in your eyes and say...we are confident that we'll have a good, successful and safe Olympic Games this summer."

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