NEWS

IOC chief is confident over 2004

With the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission today beginning its latest regular inspection of preparations for the 2004 Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge said he believes Athens will be ready for the Olympics, even if «at the last moment.» The man heading the Commission, Denis Oswald, however, commented that he would prefer «a little less improvisation» from future host cities. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who heads the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC), briefed Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday on the IOC visit and also met with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the main minister responsible for Olympic preparations. «I have confidence that at the last moment things will be ready. It could definitely have been done at a more regular pace, by losing less time, especially at the beginning. In the first 18 months, frankly speaking, it was too disorganized,» Rogge said in an interview with Kathimerini English Edition at the IOC’s headquarters on the shores of Lac Leman in Lausanne, Switzerland. «We will have to continue to monitor it [and perhaps] to ask for an acceleration, but I am confident that, at the end, things will come together,» Rogge said. He said that he had issued a warning that things were getting urgent in late February when decisions were delayed in awarding the contract for security, preparing the Karaiskaki Stadium for the soccer finals and getting all venues ready for 28 test events. «There was a slippage; I mean, a fact is a fact. And we cannot have such major slippages so shortly before the Games. In the meantime, I am glad to see that these things were solved,» Rogge said. He stressed that the IOC did not have contingency plans in case any venues were not ready. «You cannot replace a venue that is not ready,» he said. Oswald was quoted yesterday as telling Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that he hoped future Olympics hosts would be more predictable. «After Athens, one would likely want to have a host with whom there will be no risk involved,» he said. «Of course, the Greek mentality is nice, but as someone responsible, one would like less improvisation.» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki told reporters after her meeting with Simitis that her committee was cooperating closely with the government, the IOC and other agencies to solve problems. «What we are doing every day is working with the government, with whom we are united in this effort, with all the agencies involved and with the IOC, which has organized so many Games and has experience, examining the course of events all the time and providing solutions,» she said. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said, «Preparations are progressing smoothly and the progress is on track.» Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday toured the beachfront areas of Faliron and Aghios Cosmas to inspect Olympic projects being prepared by her ministry. She said that all these projects will be ready by January 2004 and that all test events at these venues will be held this coming August. These include the Olympic sailing center and the Faliron Olympic Center, which includes beach volleyball, handball, tae kwon do and the Paralympics rugby event. She noted that Poseidonos Avenue will go underground where it passes the old airport at Hellenikon, allowing the park to be built there to be joined with the beachfront. «What is important is that this will not only be a very good Olympic Center but that a huge area is being reformed and upgraded,» Papandreou said.