Thumbs up for 2004

Denis Oswald, the International Olympic Committee’s chief overseer for the Athens 2004 Olympics, declared himself pleased with preparations so far and his expectation of a «wonderful Games.» He was full of praise for the Athens 2004 organizers, sports federations, Athens Municipality, volunteers and members of the public. Oswald’s summing up came after an eventful two weeks in which test events were held at sites around Attica. Oswald declared even the rowing test event at Schinias, which was plagued by high winds, as «brilliantly passed.» But he stressed the tight timetable ahead of the Games and the need for quick progress on projects such as the metal dome over the Olympic Stadium, the tram and suburban railway. «In general terms, we are quite satisfied with the outcome of the test events,» Oswald said. «Greeks, when it really comes to… the important things, they are able to make kind of miracles and work very efficiently,» he said. Oswald also commented that security was «a priority for all of us,» following suggestions in foreign press reports that the Greeks were not taking the issue seriously. Athens 2004’s security adviser Peter Ryan, who was in charge of security at the Sydney Olympics, set off a storm when he was quoted in a report in the Guardian on Saturday which claimed that Greek police «are struggling to grasp the scale of threat posed by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.» The paper based its premise on the comments of an anonymous «western security official,» but Greek media construed Ryan’s name in the report suggesting he was behind the criticism. A press release from Athens 2004 yesterday quoted Ryan saying that quotes he had not made were attributed to him (such as that preparations were «patchy») and that others were misconstrued. He admitted he made «statements that I must confess I should have worded differently.» But, he stressed, «The effort for security for Athens 2004 is developing completely satisfactorily, even though we face strict timetables and huge challenges.» In the Guardian, Ryan compared Australia and Greece. «The nature of police and security forces in Australia and the collaboration between them was of a different sort than in Greece,» he said. «There, they were very well equipped and highly advanced technologically. We did not need to build infrastructure from scratch. Planning was therefore a lot easier. Here, they do not have that type of infrastructure, it has to be built and after building it you then have to train people how to use it.»