Olympic ‘miracle,’ and a glitch

As Olympics organizing officials yesterday claimed to have achieved «miraculous» progress in preparations for the Summer Games, a new problem threatened to upset a major road-broadening project connected with the marathon race. In an interview with The Associated Press yesterday, Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said that, despite a sluggish start, preparations are now proceeding at full steam. «We’ve created a miracle,» she said. «That means everything is on schedule… The international sports community is thrilled with the progress we have made.» Although Athens won the Games in 1997, little was done over the next three years to prepare the capital for the world’s biggest sporting event. «We had four years of preparations,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. «That is, I must say, a world record.» In another interview, with Reuters, she warned that there was no scope for slackening the pace. «There is no time for plans anymore,» she said. «What we do is execute what we planned before and if this is impossible, we have a plan B, a contingency for all occasions.» One project that could require such an approach is the widening of the eastern Attica highway from Marathon to Athens, along which the 42.195-kilometer (26.2-mile) race will be run. The contractor, European Technical SA, is burdened by debts of some 40 million euros and has been unable to pay its employees for some time. As a result, yesterday truck owners working with the construction firm yesterday blocked the highway, demanding to be paid. Sources said yesterday the government is considering handing the project to another contractor, although this would probably cause at least one month’s delay.