ATHENS, Greece (Associated Press) -- Forget the Olympic rings.
The Greek flag has become the summer fashion symbol of choice -- whether it’s worn as a halter top or etched as a tattoo.
The patriotic fervor sweeping Greece has nothing to do with the homecoming of the Olympics next month. It started with a sexy song from a pop singer and took off with the unexpected success of Greece’s soccer team in the European championship in Portugal.
The blue and white flag -- splashed across a cut off white T-shirt -- was donned by Greece’s heartthrob crooner Sakis Rouvas, whose “Shake it” took third place in a European song contest in May. The song and flag-as-fashion became an overnight sensation.
Then came Greece’s scrappy soccer team at Euro 2004. The perennial underdogs stunned fans and competitors alike with successive wins, upsetting soccer powerhouses like France and the Czech Republic to reach the finals against host Portugal on Sunday. The Greek press dubbed the team the “11 Gods,” comparing them to the 12 gods in Greek mythology.
Within days, the flag started showing up everywhere from briefs to towels. Store stocks have been depleted.
The two European successes has helped transform the usually grumpy Greeks -- worn down by the Olympic preparations -- into giddy fans that many hope will rub off for the Summer Games.
Home at Last
The Olympic flame returns home July 9.
It’s back on home turf after a five-week, six continent journey marked by colorful images such as the torch being carried by elephants in India, along the Great Wall of China and through the streets of Los Angeles by actor Tom Cruise. The flame traveled to 27 countries and 33 cities.
When it lands on the island of Crete next week, the flame begins its second Greek leg before reaching Athens on Aug. 13 to start the games. No word yet on the identity of the last torchbearer. But the president of the Olympic Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, will be on hand to receive the flame in her home island, one of four sites outside Athens that will host soccer preliminaries.
The Greek pastime of spending hours at an outdoor cafe leisurely nursing a cup of coffee will likely lighten the wallets a bit more ahead of the Summer Olympics.
City officials announced that cafe owners will have to pay about 30 percent more to rent out public spaces such as sidewalks or part of a public square. The cost will probably be passed on to the patrons.
Currently, a cafe in Athens pays $37,000 a year to rent 330 square feet of public space, the daily newspaper Ta Nea reported Thursday. The rent hike will increase the annual fee by $11,000 a year.
The hit comes amid pleas by the Greek government for stores to resist the temptation to hike prices during the Athens Games.
Apparently, municipal officials didn’t get the memo.
Government officials have suggested that the 1,300 surveillance cameras installed around Athens as part of the Olympic security network may remain in place to help navigate the city’s notorious traffic.
The continued use of the cameras after the Aug. 13-29 games is likely to become a political hot potato as Greeks traditionally are suspicious of police measures. The cameras were put into full use Thursday, when the Olympic security operations took effect.
But the head of Greece’s official privacy watchdog has put government officials on notice: They could come under scrutiny if the cameras are used to invade citizens’ privacy.
Dimitris Gourgourakis, head of the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data, said his group would re-examine any proposals for the cameras’ use after the games.