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Mayor of Athens invites one and all to celebrate `Christmas in Athens`

Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis presented this year’s “Christmas in Athens” programme…

Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis presented this year’s “Christmas in Athens” programme during a press conference at City Hall.

Excerpts of Mayor Bakoyannis’ address follow:

“For all of us, but particularly our youngest citizens, the Christmas season is the most magical time of year.

We want all children in Athens to experience the magic, colour and joy of the season and, for that reason, the municipality has organised for festive events to take place throughout the City of Athens.

The city is once again being transformed into a Yuletide wonderland, where those of us who are young-at-heart can relive the fairytales of our youth.

Christmas in Athens is also very important for another reason. It presents an opportunity for us to promote the capital abroad and bring more tourists to the city, who, in turn, generate economic benefits.

Following the successful staging of “Christmas in Athens” festivities over the past two years, we believe we have set the foundations for an institution unique to this country.

Our motto this year is “Christmas lights, trees and friends, the party in Athens never ends” and we invite all to join in the fun – to dance, play and celebrate!

The party begins on December 15, when the Christmas tree at Syntagma Square will be lit, and continues through to January 8.

On December 17, Kotzia Square will come alive in the form of the Land of Gifts and Goodies. It will feature 52 miniature log cabins full of Christmas decorations and gift ideas, a Christmas tree and a second carousel.

At the Zappeion Gardens, one will encounter “The Crystal City” and within this wonderland is a 450-square metre ice-rink where all are welcome to test their skills on the ice.

On December 21, Omonia Square will get into the spirit of the season as the Sparkling Tree, a beautiful white Christmas tree adorned with thousands of shimmering lights, is illuminated.

And finally, the New Year’s Eve concert at Kotzia Square promises to be a rousing celebration with an exclusively Greek flavour.”

Mayor Bakoyannis answered the following questions from journalists:

Journalist: What is the total cost of the events and how are they being funded? Will they be covered by sponsors, or by the City of Athens budget?

Mayor: The total cost of the programme is €1.3 million and is funded by the City budget and sponsors.

Journalist: Could you please briefly outline your proposal for the banning of cars in the city centre. Will there be toll-booths?

Mayor: I have presented the environmental programme implemented by the City of Athens before the parliamentary environment committee. As part of this presentation, we discussed the future of Athens’ environment, in light of the fact that each year we must deal with the burden of an additional 250,000 cars. The City of Athens is already proceeding with an organised parking system, which will form the basis of any future plan. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, cars must be banned from entering the city centre. And that means it should be closed off to cars entirely, therefore, no tolls. The City of Athens does not make distinctions as to who should enter the city – that is, between those who have the financial capability to pay a toll and those who do not. In the long-term, I personally believe cars should not be allowed into the city centre.

Journalist: The Union of Councils and Communities has announced that, as of Sunday, the Ano Liossia landfill will again shut down. Will this cause problems in the leadup to Christmas?

Mayor: Athens cannot function without the Ano Liossia landfill, not even for a single hour. Athens, and all of Attica, is preparing for Christmas. Businesses wait the entire year for this period. It would be incomprehensible for the City to invest in the holidays while the streets are filled with garbage.

Journalist: In the New Year, will you still be Mayor?

Mayor: I am asked this question every year. I invite you to spend New Year’s Eve with us at Kotzia Square.