NEWS

‘Still time’ for excellent Olympics

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge strove on Saturday to mollify concerns, sparked a day earlier, that he is worried about the upcoming Athens Games and insisted his overall assessment had undergone «no shift whatsoever.» Bristling slightly at suggestions he had changed his tune, Rogge said, «We still have time enough to have excellent Games,» and that he has always believed Athens could do so. He called the timetable «challenging but feasible» as long as the current, «unprecedented effort» continues apace. This assessment drew on both IOC and outside experts’ opinions. As with every Games, Rogge added, he would not relax until the last athlete departs safely. He cited transport problems at Sydney 2000 to emphasize that difficulties can always arise. The Olympics chief spoke following five days of meetings of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and, subsequently, the IOC’s Executive Board, punctuated by briefings by Athens 2004. Rogge said that the roof over the main swimming pool at the Olympic complex at Kalogreza, lately in doubt, would be resolved with today’s signing of a new contract, and that the slight delay will be made up for. On the troubled stadium roof, designed by Santiago Calatrava, he was «perfectly happy» even if it could not be finished, as long as the events are unaffected. His main aims include: a secure Games in a peaceful environment, very good athletes’ facilities, smooth transport, well-run venues with officials and volunteers, and very good media facilities to service billions of viewers worldwide. The week also delivered two more feathers to the IOC’s diplomatic cap, a «very emotional» decision to reinstate Iraq to the Olympic movement after a nine-month suspension, and another by the two Koreas to march behind a single flag in Athens. He also defended commercialism as a means to universal participation via shared revenue – with Athens 2004 getting over $1 billion – and guaranteed that every possible step has been taken on security.