NEWS

Olympics minister says he is not worried at all

Defending the government against growing accusations by the opposition that it has fallen far behind with Olympic construction works and has no idea of the Athens Games’ final cost, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday insisted that there is no need to worry. Venizelos is the minister in charge of the Olympics. Briefing Parliament’s cultural affairs committee, Venizelos said an infinite number of things have been achieved over the past few weeks with respect to Greece’s preparations for the Olympics. We have enough time, he said. There is no need to worry. And the minister said he regarded the Games as a personal matter. But despite being pressed at least 15 times for a specific answer to the total cost of holding the Olympics in Athens, Venizelos only said the exclusively Olympic works would cost 585 billion drachmas, adding that all other related projects would have been carried out anyway. He denied that his relations with Athens 2004 organizing committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki had deteriorated over the recent few days, saying that their relationship needs no warming from the outside. The ministers of public works and public order also assured MPs that all would go well as far as their ministries were concerned. Residents in the government-controlled parts of the island enjoy purchasing power of 18,500 euros per annum, 83 percent of the EU average. It is among the highest among the aspiring EU members, and would likely make the island a net contributor to the community budget once it joins. But that ratio would be radically altered if Turkish Cypriots were included from day one. Per capita income in the north lags far behind that of residents in the south, the report said. For 2000, estimates put income per head at 5,000 euros in northern Cyprus, while the financial and economic crisis in Turkey has further aggravated the economic situation.