NEWS

2004 projects in race to meet deadline

The situation regarding crucial Olympic projects is expected to clear up after the elections as the government yesterday, while acknowledging some problems, repeated assurances that everything would be ready in time for the opening ceremony in August. Prime Minister Costas Simitis chaired the interministerial committee overseeing Olympic preparations in its last meeting before the March 7 elections. It was held in the shadow of a letter from the International Olympic Committee demanding commitments regarding the timely completion of projects, especially the dome that will cover the main Olympic stadium, which has been designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. In an interview with the Greek service of the BBC yesterday, the chief of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Athens, Denis Oswald, avoided any forecasts as to whether the dome would be ready in time, but he stressed that the Games could be held without the roof. «Those who have undertaken the construction of the project have assured us that it will be ready. But it has not yet been made clear when and how the arches will be moved to their final place,» Oswald said, referring to the two giant arches that have been set up along the stadium, parallel to their final position, when they will lean toward each other and form the twin backbones of the steel-and-glass dome. «I cannot guarantee that the artificial glass that will cover the dome will be ready. The completion of the works around the stadium depend on the transfer of the arches that will support the dome and the sooner this is done, the better,» Oswald said, according to a Greek translation of his comments on the BBC’s Greek service website. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has overall supervision of Olympic preparations, said that all was going well with the dome’s construction, at the same time that officials in his ministry acknowledged that for a while work at the site was minimal and that changes had to be made to the study. Kathimerini’s sources said that there was also a delay caused by a geologist who dug 400-meter-deep boreholes for each of the dome’s 28 supports. The contracting consortium said it had solved problems at the site and would meet its deadline. Venizelos said the consortium building the Olympic swimming center’s roof had declared it was unable to meet the project’s difficult technical demands. He said an alternative would be found in time to complete the project in June. Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said that a new contractor for the marathon route will be picked by early March and work completed by early June.