NEWS

Delays in 2004 boxing venue

Amateur boxing’s top official expressed disappointment yesterday that construction work on the boxing venue for the 2004 Games has not yet started. «I happened to be in Athens… and was disappointed to see that nothing has been done with the construction,» said Anwar Chowdhry, the Pakistani president of the International Amateur Boxing Association, told The Associated Press. «Only one year is left… The work has to start.» Chowdhry said during his visit, in mid-April, the site was bare with no workers. «I saw only the plot where they want to (build) it. I spoke to them, and the next day two bulldozers arrived to start some digging.» The long-delayed facility is due to be built in Athens’s congested residential neighborhood of Peristeri. The venue will have 8,000 seats, of which 5,500 will be temporary. Earlier plans to build a seaside arena were scrapped because of delays and rising costs. The boxing pre-Olympic test event is scheduled for May 2004. Delays in venue construction remain a major headache for Olympics preparations and have prompted repeated warnings from the International Olympic Committee. Athens 2004 organizers declined to comment on the boxing venue delays, which falls under the supervision of the government. Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras, who is responsible for overseeing the progress of Olympic works, conceded that the boxing venue had fallen well behind schedule but promised to catch up. «Because of the relocation the work faced a serious delay,» he said. «Preliminary groundwork has already started and within the next five to 10 days construction will have begun fully.» Chowdhry, too, placed his faith in a late spurt of hyperactivity. «It looks to me a big task. It is not an impossible task,» he said. (AP)