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OLYMPICS 2004: Swiftly in motion

 DESPITE the last-minute fears, there was never any doubt that the Olympics would happen, says Chris Saccali, the churchwarden of St Peter’s, Kifissia, Athens.

"This is Greece and it is how we do things. I applied over two years ago to be a volunteer, and my training day and accreditation has come through now."

She pointed out that the Metro linking the airport to the city and Olympic stadiums was finally open, and that other construction work around the city would soon be finished.

St Peter’s has been directly affected by the Olympics, as the Kifissia area is home to both the athletes’ village and main Olympic stadium. "Having it on the doorstep means the church has been closed for the month. We meet in St Catherine’s, the British Embassy School, which is being cordoned off and used for a recreational centre for athletes and their families. This means it is out of bounds for us because of security reasons. But a number of our members are heavily involved in the games, including the opening ceremony," said Ms Saccali. She is also a trainee layreader and a member of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod (Europe diocese) — an area which covers a large part of Eastern Europe.

St Peter’s is happy to comply with the inconveniences caused by the heightened security in Athens. Four years ago St Peter’s was devastated by the murder of Brigadier Stephen Saunders, the British defence attaché. Brigadier Saunders was a churchwarden at St Peter’s, and attended with his wife Heather and their children.

Heather Saunders appeared on BBC’s televised Olympic Songs of Praise from Athens last Sunday, which featured English-speaking churches of various denominations. It was filmed outdoors in the shadow of the Acropolis.

Mrs Saccali said: "We all knew Stephen and his family, so this was a personal loss as well as a great tragedy. St Peter’s is a small church but is very much part of the Greater Athens Anglican chaplaincy. It has not been an easy time for us since then.

"Our previous chaplain had to return to England on health grounds. The Revd Michael Counsell came out to help us briefly and stayed two years. But he is retiring after the games, and at the moment we do not have anyone to replace him."

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