NEWS

‘Ready, safe’ in 2004

PM Costas Simitis admitted yesterday that Athens has problems to solve in the runup to the 2004 Olympics but he expressed confidence that Greece will be «ready and safe» for the Games. Simitis toured Olympic venues on Athens’s coast at Faliron and Aghios Cosmas on his first day back from a short summer break, to stress the importance of the preparations, and he called for a concerted effort to help the Games succeed. «These projects are moving ahead and will be ready in time. Greece will be ready and safe when the Olympics are held,» Simitis told reporters at Faliron. «Problems? They do exist today. That is precisely why we carry out test events, to see where there are shortcomings and what needs to be done to correct them,» Simitis said. «We do not have the illusion that everything is perfect, on the contrary. But that is why we want to move ahead with planning and determination. And we want everyone who is involved to be responsible, and we will not allow anyone to behave irresponsibly,» he said. He was briefed by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou and Athens 2004 head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. The sense of urgency was prompted by problems at the World Junior Rowing Championships at Schinias earlier this month, in which high winds caused the cancellation of one day’s events and the German team fell victim to salmonella poisoning, apparently from their hotel’s food. Other test events went smoothly. International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokeswoman Giselle Davies told The Associated Press, «The IOC’s feeling on the test events is very positive. Test events are done for the very purpose of testing different functional areas and overall the work of the organizers has been very good.» But the problems received extensive coverage in international media, which have also run stories concerning security for the Games. «2004 eyes have Athens under a microscope,» one senior government member told Kathimerini. Simitis later met with Denis Oswald, who heads the IOC’s committee in charge of Athens’s preparations. «We reported about the test events so far,» Oswald said. «We spoke also on general issues like construction.» The IOC is concerned over the progress of certain projects, such as the metal dome designed by Santiago Calatrava for the Olympic Stadium, sports venues at Hellenikon, a tramline and a suburban railway line.