NEWS

Spotlight on Athens 2004 preparations

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will meet with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge today to discuss preparations for the Athens Olympics and priorities for the 150 days remaining before the Games begin. Karamanlis has undertaken the Culture Ministry portfolio himself, in order to have direct supervision over the Olympic preparations. Yesterday the new conservative government moved quickly to get preparations back on track. It appointed Spyros Kapralos, an executive director of the Athens 2004 organizing committee, to replace Costas Kartalis as secretary general for the Olympics after the latter, who had been appointed by the former PASOK government, insisted on resigning. The general secretary’s work involves coordination between the Olympic organizing committee, the various government ministries and agencies and the contractors. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava arrived in Athens yesterday and held a long meeting with Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia and other officials regarding the steel and glass roof that Calatrava has designed for the main Olympic Stadium. Calatrava said that the roof will be ready in time for the Games but he did not specify a date. It was scheduled to be completed in June. «It will be a magnificent installation,» Calatrava said. «It will be ready for the Olympic Games, for sure.» He said he was «very optimistic.» Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias visited the stalled works of the marathon route and appeared more reserved. The company that was widening the route has been replaced because of delays. Souflias said the situation was «unacceptable» but predicted, «this project will happen as it should.» Transport Minister Michalis Liapis met with Karamanlis and discussed work on the suburban railway and the new tram network, both of which are also running behind schedule. The ministry said that Liapis had called on the contractors of the two projects to speed up their work in order to be ready in time.