ECONOMY

Very serious Olympic delays

Fifteen out of 30 major Olympic projects face major delays and are worrying the International Olympic Committee. It is easy to blame the contractors, who are prepared to squeeze every cent out of the government, with budgets gone astray and even bonuses for timely completion through the simple stratagem of contract extension. However, it is the government that is mainly to blame for the delays, having been late in clearing any legal tangles involving land ownership and then delaying the tenders. Athens 2004, the Games organizers, also have their share of blame. The table tells most of the story. Last year – April 8, 2003 to be precise – organizers and the government presented the IOC’s Coordination Commission with a timetable that current events have proven to be wildly optimistic. According to the timetable, 14 of the 30 projects listed – which include mostly Olympic venues but also infrastructure projects necessary for the Games – were to be completed in 2003. By March 1, 2004, another eight projects would have been completed and the final eight would be on the last leg, ready by late May, at most. Column 3 shows the state of completion, as a percentage of the total work done, as described by the government in a Culture Ministry document released this week. The last column shows the actual state of affairs and is clear proof that, even at this late stage, with the IOC skeptical about the constantly revised timetables it has come across, the government is being economical with the truth. There are cases, such as the open-air facilities at the Hellenikon sports complex, where the project is described as being completed when it isn’t. In this particular case, the hockey and baseball fields may be ready but landscaping, which is part of the project, has not even started. Just nine projects have finished on time, with another two having finished after delays. Among the projects yet to be delivered, just two – the wrestling and judo arena and the modern pentathlon and badminton venues – appear to be well on their way. The others are experiencing varying delays.