NEWS

2004 costs curbed, benefits spreading

Citing a «positive wave of energy» flowing from the Olympics preparatory effort, Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki defended her organization’s progress while challenging her critics in a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini Editor Antonis Karakousis, printed in today’s Kathimerini English Edition. The Olympics head expounded on the unprecedented size of the operation, requiring 150,000 people and services that must run «like clockwork.» She said the often-criticized volunteer program, now about 50,000 strong, shows the Greek people’s growing interest in the Games. She emphasized the long-term societal benefits, such as inculcating a «culture of productivity and performance.» Challenged repeatedly on the economics of the Games, she insisted they will have a positive knock-on effect for the Greek economy, especially by modernizing key sectors like health, security and transport. Seemingly stung by charges of a 600 million euro deficit at Athens 2004, she insisted that «there are no such deficits,» and said she will stay on after the Games to give a full accounting. Admitting «I wonder myself» as to why the security budget has more than doubled to 500 million euros, and impatient with venue delays, she hinted that business interests are often responsible. She also noted the Games’s international dimension, including the longest-ever torch relay, which will travel to five continents and 40 countries, as a way to «spread this idea to the whole world» in a non-commercial way.