Sponsors wanted to cover escalating Olympics costs

Athens 2004, the Olympic Games organizers are in search of new sponsors to help cover at least a good part of the cost of Olympic overlays – the refitting of facilities to fit Games standards – estimated at 750 million euros. Among the prospective sponsors mentioned are Public Power Corporation, state soccer pools and lottery company OPAP as well as several private companies, as yet unnamed. According to sources, Olympic Airways will not be the Games’ official airline. The future of the heavily indebted company is considered too unpredictable for this to take place without risking the embarrassment of an eventual collapse. All indications point to Star Alliance as the airline – or, more accurately, airline coalition – of choice. Star Alliance is a global network of 14 airlines made up of Air Canada, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Austrian Airlines, British Midland, Lauda Air, Lufthansa, Mexicana, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Tyrolean, United Airlines and Varig. As the official airline, they will offer discounts on tickets to athletes, officials and sports fans. (Of these companies, Singapore Airlines had bid to be the Greek Olympic team’s official airline for the Sydney Olympics. It submitted the best offer three times but the tender was annulled three times and Olympic airways got the nod instead.) It is considered, however, that even these new sponsors will not be enough to cover the additional cost of 750 million euros. That is why the three-member committee appointed by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to oversee Olympic costs is expected to crack down on operational costs. The issue of the additional expenses led to a clash between ministers and Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who reportedly was on the verge of resignation last week. During a meeting between Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, the latter allegedly said that «not even an extra euro» would be available for the Games out of the 2003 budget. Christodoulakis did not rule out providing extra funds from the 2004 and 2005 budgets. There is also the possibility of the government taking out yet another loan for the purpose of financing the Games, as it has already done via the European Investment Bank, the European Union’s long-term credit institution.