NEWS

IOC documents betray 2004 alarm

The government yesterday provided assurances that the preparations for the Athens 2004 were on track, following a report in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition which presented a letter from the International Olympic Committee’s vice chairman, Denis Oswald, and two charts showing progress (or the lack thereof) of Olympic projects, and which stated that the situation in some instances remains extremely tense. IOC President Jacques Rogge said in an interview with a British newspaper on Saturday that Athens is on course to produce a very good Olympic Games, expressing confidence that they will be a success. The confidential letter sent by Oswald, who chairs the IOC’s coordinating commission, to Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, is dated October 5. The charts with detailed analysis of all the Olympic projects are dated September 10. Just over 1,000 days before the inauguration of the 2004 Olympics, the progress in construction projects is described as risky, with many being canceled or revised, while most are behind schedule, threatening to triple the budgeted cost to almost 3 trillion drachmas. Three projects which are described as being the most at risk are the tennis court complex, the equestrian center at Markopoulou and the indoor stadium at Galatsi. There are also great delays in projects at the Olympic Stadium Complex, the old airport at Hellenikon, the Faliron and Flisvos water sports complexes and the international broadcast center. Broader transport infrastructure projects have either been canceled or are being revised. The issue of hotel rooms is also of concern to the IOC, while the use of cruise ships would demand better road transportation from the port of Piraeus. In addition, ticket policy cannot be worked out as long as venues are still not determined. Yesterday, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is the government’s Olympics minister, declared that the letter and comments are outdated. Everything that was published in Kathimerini today is out of date, he said. Things change every day. What we say we will do, we do. The opposition New Democracy party spokeswoman for the Olympics, Fanny Pali-Petralia, commented that the Greek people have ascertained with irrefutable documents the wretched state of preparations and the final account that the Simitis government is preparing to deliver to the people for them to pay. But IOC President Rogge told The Guardian in an interview published Saturday that he was confident of Athens’s success. Athens is on course to produce a very good Olympic Games, he said. Whether it will be as good as the last one, of course, we will not know until it happens. Where we have been worried about the timetable not being met, we have made our feelings known and the Greek committee is working very, very hard to bring preparations back on the timetable. We are now confident that it will be a success. Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris noted: The letter by the head of the IOC’s Coordinating Commission, Denis Oswald, was sent after his visit to our country last September. The comments referred to are well known. Since then, progress has been made on the specific projects, which will be determined in the IOC Coordination Commission’s next visit, on November 21. Costas Laliotis, the former public works minister who is now the ruling PASOK party’s secretary general, declared that there should not be unquestioning adoption (of the letter and charts). On the contrary, there must be faith in what the government says. He added that Kathimerini was wrong in terms of the costs. It foresees a doubling of the money needed to organize the Olympic Games. This is a mistake. These are unsubstantiated comments.