IOC, Greeks worry over transport

With the International Olympic Committee’s inspection team due in Athens tomorrow, IOC and Greek officials are expressing concern over delays in the tram and suburban railway projects that are intended to serve visitors to the Athens 2004 Games. Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday chaired a meeting of government and Athens 2004 officials to prepare for the three-day IOC inspection and discuss issues related to projects aimed at prettifying Athens and other cities hosting Olympic events. These include refurbishing the facades of 150 private and public buildings and the removal of billboards from buildings and streets. In an interview with Reuters, the IOC’s Games executive director, Gilbert Felli, said organizers had to speed up the transportation projects. «We are always concerned to make sure that testing (of venues) is done but we are confident they will do it on time,» Felli told Reuters in a telephone interview. «We are happy with all (projects) except for two projects that are tense. They are the suburban rail and tramway.» Greek officials are said to be considering busing visitors part of the way from Athens International Airport to the Olympic Stadium if the railway line is not ready. Also, tramway stops might be kept to a minimum in order to complete the project. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is in charge of the government’s Olympic efforts, said the issue would be discussed by Transport Minister Christos Verelis and IOC officials. Athens 2004 head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou visited Olympic projects at the districts of Goudi and at Hellenikon, the site of the old airport. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said: «Great progress has been made, we believe that we will be on schedule. But the Games are very close and the test events are even closer… So we are obliged to keep a close watch and to worry.» Regarding the suburban railway, she said, «Concern has been expressed over this project and this is one of the things we will discuss with the coordinating committee, to see how justified the concerns are and to see how we will get past the difficult phase.»