NEWS

Accusations follow 2004 test mishaps

Recriminations followed the problems that surfaced during the rowing competition held at Schinias last week, with the main opposition party abandoning its usual stance in support of the organization to sharply criticize both the government and Athens 2004, the Olympic Games organizers. «The grave problems that arose in the first Olympic test events have unfortunately confirmed our fears that the government and the other bodies responsible are constructing the Olympic projects and preparing for the Games in a patchy fashion, while wasting tens of billions (of drachmas) on PR fiestas,» New Democracy MP Fani Palli-Petralia said yesterday. As a sports minister back in 1990, Palli-Petralia had a hand in Athens’s failed, and much-criticized, bid to stage the 1996 Olympics. New Democracy MP Nikitas Kaklamanis also criticized the government and organizers over the outbreak of gastroenteritis that caused the German team to withdraw from the World Junior Rowing Championships. The outbreak has been blamed on a meal served at the hotel where the German team stayed, but there are no conclusive laboratory results yet. Although high winds that disrupted the competition were the main problem, this test event revealed a number of weaknesses in the management of the Games. Volunteers failed to show up, there were transport mix-ups, problems with police officers being shifted around, as well as communications problems. Although a second test event (out of a total of seven to be staged this month), archery, is proceeding smoothly, the government and organizers fear that the others will cause a headache. One of this is a cycling competition, to be held in the center of Athens next Sunday, a day of mass return by vacationers. A year before the Games start, there is also a problem with the wireless communications system that will be used. The US-led consortium that won the bid to build security communications has switched partners since: Instead of Finland’s Nokia, these will be Greece’s OTE Telecom and Germany’s Siemens. The government has given the consortium until today to sign the new contract.