NEWS

A leaner marathon starting point

Long-delayed works at the starting point of the most Greek of Olympic contests, the marathon race, will definitely be ready in three months’ time, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias promised yesterday. Following a meeting at the ministry with top officials and the project contractor, it was decided to trim initial plans for the starting point near the modern village of Marathon, 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) northeast of the Panathenaic Stadium where the race will end. «There will be some technical changes, which will by no means alter the functional nature, the quality and the image of the project,» Souflias said, promising that the original plans will materialize in full after the August 13-29 Games. «The contractor has committed himself to having the work finished by June 15, as initially planned.» The project involved upgrading an existing stadium and landscaping the area, with the construction of two footbridges and a road bridge over a streambed that leads from the artificial Marathon Lake past the village to the sea. All three bridges will be built after the Games, while much of the landscaping will be watered down. Souflias said that the contractor was not the only person to blame for the delays, but took pains to avoid naming his predecessor, Vasso Papandreou. However, the Socialist former minister issued a statement claiming that PASOK deserved full praise for the project. «Despite the great problems, caused by external agents, which it faced, the marathon route will be completed due to the way PASOK’s government handled the project,» she said. «Failure to recognize [PASOK’s] great success in completing all the great Olympic projects in time would be petty.»