‘Satisfied’ IOC vigilant on 2004

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is satisfied with the progress made in preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics, but also concerned about the tight schedule for the completion of several venues and infrastructure projects. «Our assessment is certainly more positive than it was in February,» the chairman of the IOC’s Coordination Commission, Denis Oswald, said yesterday. «But… we cannot tolerate any slippages.» Back in February Jacques Rogge, IOC president and Oswald’s predecessor as Commission chairman, had issued a stern warning over delays. Then, the main areas of concern were the absence of a suitable stadium to host the soccer final in Athens, the delays in signing a contract for a security communications system and problems related to the construction of the Athens tramway. Rogge had been incensed when Greek officials’ assurances that these projects were on track proved to be untrue. «These problems have been addressed… and proper solutions presented to us,» Oswald said. This was the 10th visit of the full Coordination Commission since Athens was awarded the Games in September 1997. Two more visits will take place before the Games. Besides Athens 2004, the organizers, Oswald met with government officials, including Prime Minister Costas Simitis. But he was dogged by controversy over remarks he allegedly made just before the visit to German weekly Der Spiegel, where he had said that, after Athens, he was longing for a candidate city «without risks» and that, much as he admired the Greek spirit, he wanted «less improvisation.» Oswald waved a copy of the article, claiming that what he said was taken out of context and that he was referring «only to a German candidature» for the 2012 Games. «The prime minister read the full article and found nothing objectionable,» Oswald said. The four areas of «some concern» to the IOC are the refurbishment of Karaiskaki Stadium, the Hellenikon sports complex, the Peristeri boxing arena and renovation of the main Olympic complex, including a glass-and-steel dome designed by noted architect Santiago Calatrava.