Thousands of riders packed Athens's new tram yesterday as it made its first trip through the Greek capital before next month's Olympics.
Designed primarily to ease chronic congestion on the capital's busy streets, the tram system also was built with the Aug. 13-29 Games in mind. Traffic jams are a serious problem in Athens, which has nearly 5 million residents and more than 2 million cars.
During the Olympics, trams will carry spectators from the city center to sports venues along Athens's southern seaside suburbs. The system can carry up to 80,000 people a day.
As the first tram rolled into central Syntagma square, passengers clapped just before the doors opened while dozens jostled to get on.
Within the first three hours, the tram had carried more than 20,000 people, officials said.
"I see it is better than other means of transport," said Angeliki Papaioannou, 60, who used the tram to get from the beach to her home. "Of course we were waiting for it. We wanted it."
The tram's delivery date for months had remained uncertain, amid constant construction delays at Olympic venues that have worried International Olympic Committee officials.
Meantime, most Greeks want to attend the Olympics but have been waiting until the last minute to buy a ticket, according to a nationwide poll released yesterday.
The poll, commissioned by the Athens Organizing Committee, also found that 40 percent of Athens's residents said they will stay in the capital so they can attend a sports event.
That's considerably more than the 26.1 percent who said they would stay when the same poll was carried out in May.
"This confirms assessments that the intention of people to buy tickets for the games is increasing," the organizing committee said in a statement.
Athens Olympic officials have been campaigning in recent months for Greeks to buy more tickets after less than half of the 5.3 million were sold.
Spain will send 13 police agents to protect the country's athletes at the Games, the first time it took such a measure for the event, the Interior Ministry said.
Ministry spokesman David Fernandez said he was unable to comment on a report in the El Mundo newspaper that said the agents will carry arms.
Spain joins nations including the United States and Israel that plan to send police to the Games. Spain increased security measures at domestic sports events since March, when 191 people were killed in Madrid train bombings.
Spain "is obliged to protect its nationals inside and outside the borders of our country," Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said in a televised interview.
Eadie Wins Appeal
Sean Eadie, a cycling bronze medalist at the Sydney Games, won his appeal after contesting a five-year-old doping accusation and was expected to be placed on Australia's Olympic team.
The former world champion was dropped from the team last week when the Australian Olympic Committee told Cycling Australia it would not allow him to compete in Athens.
Eadie last week was served with a notice saying the Australian Customs Service in 1999 intercepted a package addressed to him with tablets containing a growth hormone. The substance is banned by the AOC and Cycling Australia. Eadie denied knowledge of the package and has never failed a doping test.
Eadie's lawyer, Bernard Gross, said Judge Jerrold Cripps did not give reasons for upholding Eadie's appeal. Ben Kersten, who was selected as Eadie's replacement, is expected to try to keep his place on the team.