NEWS

2004 budget warning

The government said yesterday that it would undertake only part of the costs of adapting facilities to meet Olympic standards for the Athens 2004 Games, saying that the rest would come out of the organizing committee’s budget. It insisted that the overall budget for the Games would remain fixed at 4.6 billion euros. «We will not go over this limit,» said Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is in charge of Olympic preparations. «Whatever needs arise from now until the end of the Games, the State will undertake to pay for them, beyond its initial responsibilities, and for all projects that will have a direct or indirect use after the Olympics,» he said after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis. «The organizing committee’s budget is set at 1.962 billion euros, it is balanced and it has specific sources of income,» Venizelos added. «New needs arise. If these needs are not tied to the possibility of using the facilities directly or indirectly after the Olympics, then these will naturally be covered by the organizing committee’s budget.» This was the latest hint by the government that costs for the 2004 Games might be getting out of hand. At the government meeting, comments were heard about the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee’s allegedly spendthrift ways. Some said that organizers were some 250 billion drachmas (734 million euros) short. The committee, however, says that its books are balanced. Its revenues come from television rights (42 percent), sponsors, ticket sales and the commercial use of its logo (41 percent) and the Greek State (14 percent). But a government source said, «It must still be seen whether the revenues presented by this budget really do exist.» Venizelos and Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis said that they could not inspect Athens 2004’s books and could not know where it was spending its money. Government sources believe that upgrading facilities to Olympic standards will come to 360 million euros, of which the government expects to have to pay a third with the rest paid by Athens 2004. The latter has said before that the government has a commitment to bear the cost of bringing facilities up to Olympic standards. After the meeting, Venizelos also confirmed that the tender to award the contract for the Games’ security system had been declared void.