ECONOMY

Olympic venues delayed but within budget, minister says

Four Olympic construction projects, whose building is supervised by the Culture Ministry, have fallen behind schedule, some of them due to legal wrangling. Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras, in charge of these projects, reassured reporters yesterday that these and 16 other projects will be completed on schedule. Alevras attacked conservative opposition New Democracy over its latest claims that the projects have considerably overrun their budgets, saying they provided false figures to back up their claims. He admitted, however, that there are significant differences in cost between the project studies and the contracts signed with the winning bidders. Alevras said the budgets mentioned in the project studies were «estimates,» adding that, for the present, there are no budget overruns. The four delayed projects are: the refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium and its surroundings, including the construction of two arcs by noted Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava; the construction of sports venues at the site of the former Athens airport at Hellenikon; the boxing arena; and the weightlifting and tae kwon do arena at Ano Liossia. Of these, the delays in the first two projects are due to legal challenges by losing bidders; the Calatrava project has been the subject of at least two legal challenges, which will be heard on December 19 by the Council of State. Alevras said that parts of the metallic structures are being assembled in Germany and Italy and will arrive in Greece in early April. The boxing arena’s venue has recently been moved from Neo Faliron to Peristeri, where it will be close to a new subway station. The wrestling arena was redesigned to be especially resistant to earthquakes, since it is close to an area where many buildings were badly damaged in a 1999 earthquake. This has set back construction by three months. Alevras also said that the equestrian center at Markopoulo, near the new airport, will be ready by August 2003.