NEWS

Security, SARS concern IOC

MADRID (Reuters) – Security, SARS and a multibillion-dollar TV deal for the 2012 Summer Games and 2010 Winter Games will dominate the Olympic agenda in the countdown to next year’s Athens Games. In a week of heightened fears following bomb blasts in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which met in the Spanish capital last week, said its security experts were happy with arrangements in the Greek capital 15 months before the 2004 Games. Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli said a team of Olympic security experts, working with the Greek government, had reviewed arrangements in Athens and delivered a positive report. Athens Olympics chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki also assured IOC President Jacques Rogge that construction on every venue for the Games was now under way and that «now is a time for confidence.» «We are 15 months away from the opening of the 2004 Games,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. «We need to keep working every day. We have no time to lose but now is a time for confidence. Athens will be ready on time.» Rogge is determined that the deadly SARS virus should not disrupt the Games or its warmup events and urged sports leaders not to overreact. He warned federations not to discriminate against athletes from areas hit by the bug, which has killed more than 600 people worldwide. Urging officials not to panic, he said, «Nobody knows what the situation will be in two weeks’ time.» [Rogge said the IOC is ready to take «exceptional measures under exceptional circumstances» if SARS threatens to disrupt qualifying events for next year’s Olympics, The Associated Press reported. He also expressed surprise over Ireland’s decision to ban athletes from five SARS-hit countries from next month’s Special Olympics.]