Athens given a break

The organisers of the 2004 Olympics in Athens were promised tax breaks for sponsors yesterday, in an effort to lure companies willing to back the Games.

The organisers of the 2004 Olympics in Athens were promised tax breaks for sponsors yesterday, in an effort to lure companies willing to back the Games.

As well as the special tax breaks, the Greek government confirmed it is taking steps to avoid double taxation and will ensure the easy import and export of Olympic-related goods. So far Athens 2004 has signed the biggest national sponsorship deal in the history of the Olympics - a $50m (£35m) agreement with the state-run telecom company.

The Greek culture minister, Evangelos Venizelosalso, also unveiled details of the "Cultural Olympics" - including concerts, exhibits and other events - which will run from early 2001 until 19 August 2004, when the Games begin. The first event, a concert, is to take place on Saturday. The Athens 2004 chief executive, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, said: "It is positive that we see the first event is no longer on the horizon, but in the very near future."

Venizelosalso also confirmed that Greece's most famous ancient sites will be involved in the Cultural Olympics. Olympia, the holy island of Delos and the theatre of Epidaurus will be some of the sites where events are scheduled to start early this year. The Acropolis, the capital of Macedonian kings, Vergina, and the Byzantine ghost city of Mistra will also host festivals, exhibitions and concerts as part of the celebrations.

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