Olympic chiefs meet in Athens

As at least three Olympic projects remain under a cloud of uncertainty, which is not expected to lift before the March 7 national elections, the International Olympic Committee’s most senior officials will be in Athens this week for a series of meetings, including briefings on the course of Greece’s preparations for the Games. Today, the three-day General Assembly of National Olympic Committees will open at the Inter-Continental hotel, to be followed by this year’s first meeting of the IOC Executive Board, from Friday to Sunday. IOC President Jacques Rogge will hold a press conference on Sunday, at which he is expected to be pressed for comments on the state of preparations for the summer Olympics. So far, Rogge has sounded an optimistic note, telling journalists last week that «I remain confident that our Greek friends will deliver.» «They have to work hard and fast,» he added, «but if they keep up the pace, the Games will be successful.» However, doubts are rising both in Greece and among IOC officials – particularly the IOC Coordination Commission for Athens, headed by Denis Oswald – regarding the course of the work. One major headache, which Oswald has repeatedly cited, is the plan to build a 130-million euro steel-and-glass roof over the main Olympic stadium in Athens, under designs by respected Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Although the government insists that the lumbering project will be ready in time, Oswald has said the stadium will do even without the roof – if the IOC cannot be certain that the structure will be delivered within the complex time framework leading up to the August 13-29 Games. Other troubled projects are the roadworks on the Marathon race route and a planned roof for the outdoor swimming complex.