Minting cash for the Games

Betraying government concern over soaring costs for the 2004 Olympics, Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday discussed with Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas plans to mint a commemorative 2-euro coin to boost the Games budget. The coin will be legal tender and will circulate throughout the eurozone as of January 1, Garganas told journalists after the meeting. He provided no details on the coin’s design, which is expected to be linked with Olympic themes. «We discussed in detail the matter of a commemorative 2-euro coin… the proceeds of whose circulation, through the state budget, will partially finance Olympic projects,» the central bank governor said. Sources said 50 million coins of the new issue will be struck, providing state coffers with a 100-million-euro injection. Although highly welcome, this is not expected to go far. The government has long claimed that the Games will cost Greece a total of 4.6 billion euros, although the exact figure depends to a great extent on the definition of what constitutes an Olympics-related work. Together with clear-cut sports projects such as the construction of venues for the 2004 Games, the government has also launched a long-delayed series of roadworks on crucial Athens thoroughfares, a new tram network linking the city center with the southern coastal suburbs and a suburban railway. A separate source of expenditure is the 2004 organizing committee’s 1.7-billion-euro budget, which will be covered by television broadcasting rights and ticket sales. Last week, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, after Simitis the government’s top Olympics official, conceded that the 4.6-billion-euro budget could be exceeded by 5-10 percent.

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