IOC will keep pressure on Athens 2004

The International Olympic Committee’s inspection team began a three-day visit to Athens yesterday and its president, Denis Oswald, said the Coordination Commission would keep up the pressure to ensure a successful 2004 Games. «The success or the failure of the Games will depend on what is achieved in these last 500 days, and that is why we keep the pressure on the (organizing) committee, on the government,» Oswald said in Athens. The inspection will focus on issues such as the Olympic Stadium dome designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the tram linking the center with Olympic facilities on the beachfront, the highway over the Kifissos River and the timetable for test events (as there are concerns that some venues might not be ready in time). Regarding the stadium dome, Deputy Public Works Minister Nassos Alevras said yesterday that parts of the metal frame are already under construction in Italy and that the contracts for the second phase of the project (reshaping the stadium’s environs) will be signed on April 14. When one of the IOC members pressed for more information, he was told, «We can show you photographs.» Regarding the refurbishment of the Karaiskaki Stadium, where the soccer finals are to be held, officials repeated their commitment that the stadium will be ready in time for the Games, even though the work is not expected to begin before Easter later this month. The municipality of Palaio Faliron opposes the construction of the tramlines along its beachfront but the general secretary of the Culture Ministry, Costas Kartalis, claimed that the problem will be overcome soon. With regard to the Kifissos work, which is on a very tight schedule, officials said they hope the project will be completed by May 2004, one month ahead of schedule, because of the bonus the Public Works Ministry has promised the contractors. The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee presented its final program for test events, which are to be approved by mid-May. Athens 2004 Managing Director Yiannis Spanoudakis said the contract for security will be signed with the SAIC consortium in the next few days.