CULTURE

Costs, delays, criticism and only 111 days to go until the Olympics

Only 111 days remain till the start of the Olympic Games in Athens. Three aces, but not one up the sleeve of the Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC). Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of ATHOC, with her silk designer blouse, high heels and optimistic smile at her successive meetings with political leaders, keeping them up to date before the inevitable opening ceremony. If the Calatrava roof is eventually installed, Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia and Athens 2004 advisers will watch, not from directly beneath it, but from the side. At the last minute it turned out that the study of the ground had not taken into account the underground spaces left in the past by lignite mining and which would affect stability. The roof will be useful for television coverage, and an impressive sight in metal and glass. It was designed by a big name, the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who insists it will be be ready and functional. Considering the cost and the delay, so it should be. Meanwhile, the sports centers, the work sites along the seafront, the Kifissos and the tram are in a chaotic state. The foreign press constantly expresses doubts about Athens’s readiness, and direct information from ATHOC is limited. The Athens ’04 magazine provides information about events and people. And the general atmosphere; the only freedom we have is to make well-intentioned criticism. As Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in the first (and possibly the only) interview he gave – not to a journalist but to Athens ’04 magazine: «We are condemned to succeed.» Karamanlis – who took over the work sites and delays and omissions of the previous government and sent his ministers into the lions’ (or contractors’) dens to deal with the chaos and perform the impossible – said a great deal more with this brief phrase than he did in the rest of the long interview, addressed, according to Athens ’04, to «the Olympic family, the Greek and international family.» He also sent a serious message that «Greece guarantees a safe Games.»