NEWS

2004 Olympics chief calls on Greeks to cooperate for success

The head of the organization preparing for next year’s Olympics warned Greeks yesterday that much work remains if Athens wants to be ready for the Games. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki also called on Greeks to stop the backbiting and bickering that has shadowed Athens’s effort to finally overcome years of delay in building sports venues and other infrastructure projects. «Greece is making persistent and difficult preparations for the Olympic Games, as did other countries who hosted them,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. «During this period and especially this last year before the Games we have a lot of work and we must all be careful and not to speak much.» Premier Costas Simitis and other Socialist government officials have called on political parties to rally behind the government’s efforts to prepare for the Olympics, describing the success of the Games as a «national issue.» «It is an issue that has to do with all us and it must interest us all,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said after meeting Costas Karamanlis, head of the main conservative opposition New Democracy party. Karamanlis, however, warned the Socialist government not to use the Olympics as part of its political campaign ahead of elections set to take place by May 2004 – three months before the start of the Olympics. Simitis has made the Games a top priority for his government as it gears up for elections. «It would be a huge mistake for the government to use the Games for party interests,» Karamanlis said. «It would be big mistake if it believes it can use them to exit from dead ends by spending billions, not for the international promotion of the Olympic Games, but for pre-election consumption.» Greece is spending at least US$4.6 billion to prepare for the Olympics. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki’s appeal for hard work came as organizers completed a first round of pre-Olympic sports events meant to test venues and personnel ahead of the Games. A sailing regatta that ended successfully yesterday was one of seven test events held in August. Organizers were criticized for their handling of one test event, a rowing world championship, which was marred by gale-force winds and a salmonella outbreak that forced the entire German rowing team to withdraw. Other events – archery, cycling, an equestrian competition, beach volleyball – were carried out with few glitches. More such competitions are scheduled throughout the year.