NEWS

IOC critics answered

A surprise visit by a team of International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials two weeks ago resulted in a report that 15 construction projects and procurements tenders were dangerously behind schedule and prompted the blunt warning by IOC President Jacques Rogge on Friday that the situation regarding preparations for Athens 2004 was «serious.» The government responded angrily yesterday that everything was going to be ready in time and Prime Minister Costas Simitis was to send a letter to Rogge decrying his «dramatic statements.» One of the main points of Rogge’s criticism, the choosing of a consortium to provide a security system for the Games, is to be answered with the announcement of the US-led SAIC consortium as the temporary winner within the next few hours, sources said yesterday. This will be followed by further negotiations with the consortium. Among the projects listed in the IOC report (which Kathimerini has) were the indoor stadium at Faliron, the canoe slalom course at Hellenikon, the modern pentathlon facilities at Goudi and the indoor stadium at Ano Liosia. Regarding these four, the report noted, «it is very likely that they will be handed over late, which will affect the operational preparedness of the Games.» The IOC team also found «significant delays in the procurements for the temporary facilities and the services connected with these,» noting that it believed it necessary that the first tenders be announced in March. Rogge’s comments prompted more tension between government officials and Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC). Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos hinted after a meeting of officials involved in the preparations that ATHOC’s chief had used Rogge as a weapon in the dispute over who would pay for certain projects. «There was no reason for an impression of a crisis to be created. We have certain issues which are open, the basic one being how to handle the Olympic budget in the best and most realistic way,» Venizelos said. But he admitted that some test events would not be held at Olympic facilities. «In Sydney, 50 percent of test events were held at other facilities… The ratio here is better,» he said. Telemachos Hytiris, a government spokesman, said Simitis’s letter to Rogge would stress that «there are no problems in the Olympic preparations that should warrant dramatic statements.»