NEWS

Olympic test ‘a success’ but blunder-prone

The second test event for the Athens Olympics and the first this year – the World Junior Rowing Championships at Schinias, northeast of Athens – was given a thumbs-up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) upon completion on Saturday, despite the high winds which affected competition. But a series of mishaps, including a mass outbreak of gastroenteritis that led to the withdrawal of the German team, have left Olympic organizers Athens 2004 flustered and their head, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, reportedly ready for a major purge within the organization. «We have passed the test,» IOC Executive Board member, chief inspector of the Athens Games and head of the international rowing federation Denis Oswald said on Saturday, adding that, with the exception of the high winds, everything went very well. «The venue was splendid in every aspect – concept, design, areas and services… The organizers showed a lot of flexibility,» Oswald said. On Saturday, authorities «temporarily» shut down the restaurant in the Hotel Nireus where the German athletes, coaches and other staff were staying. The athletes were stricken by the salmonella bacterium – 2004 officials initially claimed they had been affected before arriving in Greece – and authorities suspect that Saturday’s lunch, taken at the hotel, is to blame. The hotel’s management hotly disputed this, saying other guests had not complained of any ill effects. It was revealed, however, that a preliminary inspection of the hotel’s kitchen by local authorities, on July 23, found 13 breaches of hygiene. A second inspection, a week later, found that «some» of these breaches had been addressed, a Health Ministry statement said. The incident made enough waves to lead to an emergency phone call on Saturday night by vacationing Prime Minister Costas Simitis to Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. The two agreed that those responsible ought to be promptly found and punished. The phone call also helped to calm an incipient row between the government and Athens 2004 officials. According to yesterday’s Eleftherotypia newspaper, government officials had started accusing Athens 2004 of bungling the test event. The row reportedly extended within Athens 2004, with Chief Operating Officer Marton Simitsek and one of his subordinates engaging in a shouting match. Other problems reported included the fact that nearly a quarter of volunteers failed to show up at Schinias, transportation mishaps affecting the Ukrainian and Korean teams and policemen unable to operate the communications system. The month’s second test event, archery, is proceeding smoothly at the Panathenaic Stadium.