International human rights groups urged the Greek government Tuesday to improve conditions for over 100,000 gypsies living in poverty before the 2004 Olympics.
The plea followed a tour of gypsy settlements around Athens and meetings with officials from the ministries of the interior, justice and foreign affairs.
The tour included areas where gypsies were forced off land used to build venues and infrastructure projects for the Games.
"What I saw here was shocking. They had no shoes, no water, no books and women of 32 looked like they were 50 years old," said Orhan Galjus of the South East Europe Media Organization. "These people need help."
More than 120,000 gypsies live in Greece, according to government estimates, and almost half live in tents and shacks at settlements outside cities across the country, some with poor sanitation and no electricity or running water.
The envoys, including rights monitors from the Council of Europe, also urged the government to improve its record on a wide variety of other issues, including the treatment of sex trade trafficking victims and illegal immigrants.
OFFICERS PROTEST: More than 1,000 officers from the police, fire department and Coast Guard marched in uniform in Athens to demand hazard pay and benefits before the Olympics.
The officers came from all over Greece, chanting "decent pay, not charity" as they headed to parliament.
They demanded hazard benefits, which include a small monthly bonus and a full pension awarded to families of officers killed in the line of duty.
"All we want is to be able to cover our basic needs," Tassos Mavropoulos, head of the Coast Guard officers' association, said. "This will not affect our participation in security for the Olympic Games. We just want the government to listen to us."
HUNTER BELITTLED: The world governing body for track and field ridiculed accusations by former shot put champion C.J. Hunter that officials promised to suppress news of his positive drug tests if he feigned an injury and withdrew from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Istvan Gyulai, secretary general of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said Hunter was "feeble-minded" if he thought there was any offer of a deal from IAAF officials during a meeting they had with Hunter shortly before the 2000 Games.
Hunter, the former husband of Olympic star Marion Jones, told the San Jose Mercury News that IAAF officials told him to "say you got an injury and you can't compete in the Olympics" because they wanted to avoid a drug scandal just before the Sydney Games.
WRESTLING: Greco-Roman wrestling experts Shon Lewis and Andy Seras will help coach the U.S. team at next summer's Athens Games. The two will join coach Steve Fraser, the national Greco-Roman coach since 1995.
TENNIS: Casino to host Davis Cup
The Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., will host the United States' first-round Davis Cup match against Austria in February.
The site will be announced this morning at a news conference with Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe in the casino's 10,000-seat arena.
COACHING CHANGE: Wimbledon champion Roger Federer split with coach Peter Lundgren after three years.
TSN HONOR: Marlins manager Jack McKeon and Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil were named the Sporting News Sportsmen of the Year.
DRUG SUSPENSION: Pole vaulter Chase Shealy was barred from competition for two years after testing positive for amphetamines during a June 21 competition.
SKIING: A World Cup women's giant slalom moved from the Czech Republic because of warm weather will be run in Italy on Saturday. ... Olympic bronze medalist Tim Goebel withdrew from the Grand Prix Final in Colorado Springs, Colo., because of ongoing problems with his skates.