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The organisers of the 2004 Olympics will launch an international search to find more than 60,000 volunteers to help during the games, the committee President announced this week. Ginna Angelopoulous-Daskalaki said the search, to be launched in the coming week, includes an effort to find volunteers in Greece and from abroad, particularly in Cyprus. Who have already pledged up to 10,000 volunteers to help with the staging of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games as part of its contribution to the event. They will also contribute the copper for the bronze medals to be awarded and will also provide authentic ancient Greek instruments.

More than 1 million people of Greek descent live in Canada and the United States. Volunteers are considered an essential part of managing the complexites of the Olympics, from assisting spectators to helping the huge press corps. The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly urged Athens organisers to pay close attention to the volunteer effort.

Greeks from abroad are an important source, because of their knowledge of foreign languages. It is of course equally important to stir interest among Greece's 10.2 million people, who do not have a big tradition in volunteerism. A major concern is that during the month of August when the games are to be held, it is traditionally a holiday month with most of the population of Athens and surrounding areas leaving for their homes accross the mainland and islands. Angelopoulos-Daskalki said the coming year would focus on informing the world about the volunteer program, which will be capped with a final selection by the end of 2003.

Premier Costas Simitis plans to kick off the search next week by hosting a meeting of more than 600 local organisations, from parent-teacher associations to professional unions.

The success of the Sydney Olympics showed the role volunteerism can play in the organisation of the games. Helping to cope with more than 7 million spectotors, 20,000 journalists and more than 16,000 athletes and officials. A large part of the time will be also taken up in the, training and guidance of the 60,000 volunteers.

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