Test events successful

Organizers of the Athens 2004 Olympics, which faced a series of problems at the beginning of a series of «test events» earlier this month, were relieved over the weekend as four of those events were completed with barely a hitch. One event, an archery tournament at the Panathenaic Stadium, finished on Friday. Three more, an equestrian event at Markopoulo, a canoe-kayak flatwater event at the rowing center at Schinias, near Marathon, and the two-stage Under-23 European Cycling Championships, held in the Vouliagmeni area and in the center of Athens, were wrapped up yesterday. This time around, there was much praise for the venues. Belgium’s Marc Vandervyvere – a four-time Tour de France competitor and an official observer for international cycling’s ruling body UCI for the last two Olympic Games at Atlanta and Sydney – had high praise for the road race course through the center of Athens. «The course is truly wonderful and I would even say entertaining,» he said of its route past the many historical monuments and archaeological sites that dot Athens. International show jumper Andrew Hoy, who has competed in five Olympics, said facilities at the riding course, including the crucial veterinary clinic, were «marvelous.» But one of the judges at the equestrian event suggested crowd control could be improved at the dressage event. «For this event it should be as quiet as a church,» said German judge Christoph Hess. The crowd, which was far from capacity and which mainly included officials and about 250 spectators provided with a special pass, did not keep quiet and cellphones repeatedly rung during the event. Also, cyclists yesterday encountered numerous pigeons on roads around the Acropolis. «The pigeons could cause problems,» said the head of the European Cycling Federation, Vladimir Holoecek, before praising the police, which succeeded in turning central Athens into a traffic-free zone. Barriers closed roads throughout the cycling course, with volunteers and police making sure that passers-by used the available crossing points without interfering with the race. At Markopoulo, a minor incident occurred on Saturday, when Greece’s ex-King Constantine tried to attend the event without a pass. Constantine, a gold medallist in sailing at the 1960 Olympics, has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1963. He was eventually issued with a spectator’s pass.