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May 2004

Olympic Games Spur Underwater Cleanup Effort

Emeryville, CA— The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (ATHOC) and the Athens Environmental Foundation (AEF) have just announced that they have partnered in a coastal underwater clean-up operation on the occasion of World Environment Day, June 5, 2004.

AEF Board member Jean-Michel Cousteau, renowned diver and the Olympic movement’s first ambassador for the environment — who recently received the first ever “Ocean Hero” Award for “defending the world oceans and inspiring people around the globe” — will lead the underwater clean-up expedition from June 3 - June 5, 2004. It will include a team of divers and marine industrial clean-up crews that will clean the regional beaches and coastal waters around the Olympic perimeter of the Athens region.

The expedition will include simultaneous beach and underwater clean-up operations whereby school children and members of the World Olympians Association will clean a specific beach area. In addition to using divers for removal of trash generated by human activities from the waters surrounding the beach, it will include the use of marine tugboats with cranes for the removal of larger objects that are polluting those waters. The refuse will then be separated and collected by trucks that will distribute it to entities that can recycle or reuse whatever is possible while properly disposing of the rest.

“The return of the Olympic Games to their birthplace offers an unprecedented opportunity to highlight our responsibility for the environment and to protect and improve the world’s beautiful beaches and waters,” said Tony Diamantidis, AEF Executive Director.

“Improving our environment is one of the key Olympic principles,” said Yannis Pyrgiotis, ATHOC Executive Director. “This is a celebration of human collaboration, with people working together for peace, sustainability and respect for the environment. Greece is known for its uniquely beautiful beaches and that’s why clean seawater is of the highest importance. By organizing this expedition, we wish to assert our steadfast commitment to the conservation of the priceless ecological heritage which our coasts, beaches and seas comprise.”

The events are organized in coordination with the United Nations Environment Program and on the occasion of World Environment Day 2004. This year’s global theme is: “Wanted! Seas and Oceans - Dead or Alive?” in an effort to raise awareness of the many issues of marine pollution and sustainability.

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