NEWS

Shade for Olympic swimmers

Construction of a badly needed sun shelter for the main swimming pool at the main Olympic complex in Athens is to go ahead after a new contract was signed with constructors, the government said yesterday. «A contract was signed with the Hellenic Swimming Federation,» Telemachos Hytiris, the government’s Olympics spokesman told The Associated Press, adding that the contract was signed on Monday. The humble structure over the open pool suddenly acquired disproportionately high significance earlier this month when the government said the contractors had declared themselves unable to carry out the work according to existing plans. Government officials argued that the shelter was a minor project that was only intended to provide good filming conditions for international television crews. This drew a swift response from the International Swimming Federation (FINA), whose president insisted that the roof was necessary, not only for TV crews but also to protect swimmers and spectators from the scorching August sun during the Games. On a different level, the Australian Olympic swimming team’s chief coach said his athletes would have to bring ice-vests with them to Athens if the shelter fails to materialize. Less than six months before the Games’ opening ceremony, organizers and International Olympic Committee officials still have many headaches. The monumental steel-and-glass structure designed by Santiago Calatrava for the main Olympic stadium is behind schedule, as is the cycling track, also to be roofed by the Spanish architect. Officials of the International Cycling Federation (UCI) told the AP yesterday that although the roof itself is nearly ready, work on the cycling track may not be ready by the promised date of May 15.