NEWS

Schinias defended as winds stop races

A top International Olympic Committee (IOC) official yesterday defended the 2004 rowing venue of Schinias, northeast of Athens, even as winds as high as 51 kilometers (32 miles) per hour forced the cancellation of the entire day’s schedule of the World Junior Championships after several boats capsized. «Had we had a better place in Greece we would have used it,» said Denis Oswald, member of the IOC’s Executive Board, chairman of the Coordination Commission overseeing Athens’s preparations for next year’s Olympics and president of the International Rowing Federation. «Unfortunately, indoor rowing does not exist,» he observed. Problems with high winds have troubled the first of seven test events that will be held this month to gauge the readiness of Olympic venues and operations. Marton Simitsek, one of the executive directors of Athens 2004, the Games’ organizers, said that a study done over the past 11 years showed that such windy August conditions had prevailed only during eight of 339 days. A proposal to plant trees along the course, rejected because it would benefit some lanes more than others, is now being reconsidered, Spyros Papagrigoriou, one of the site’s designers, said. Initially, Athens 2004 had proposed the lake of Ioannina, in northwestern Greece, as the site for rowing events. It was the IOC’s insistence that sites be as close to host city Athens as possible that led to the choice of Schinias, near Marathon, which was heavily criticised by environmental groups and archaeologists.