NEWS

Games works to be ready at ‘last minute’

NATO yesterday agreed officially to provide assistance to Greece to help make the Athens 2004 Olympic Games as safe as possible. But the urgency of trying to protect the Olympics at a time of mass terrorist attacks was almost matched by the anxiety of the new conservative government for getting the facilities ready in time for the Games in August. «Many works will be completed at the last moment, and only just,» said Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias, on a tour of construction work along the Faliron waterfront and the old airport at Hellenikon. In a dramatic sign of further, unexpected delays, the consortium building the roof over the main stadium said the steel-and-glass dome is scheduled to be finished on July 20, a little over three weeks ahead of the opening ceremonies on August 13. The roof, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is the centerpiece of the refurbished stadium and was to be completed by the end of June, according to the last schedule presented by the previous government. «We are right on the edge, and any delay will be decisive. We need a surplus of determination and effort from all involved,» said Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia as she toured the site yesterday. Earlier, she had met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who also holds the portfolio of culture minister in order to have overall supervision of the Olympic preparations. Karamanlis told her to find out immediately how much work still needed to be done at the main Olympic complex, especially with regard to the roof over the main stadium and the Olympic aquatic center. Palli-Petralia gave the Calatrava roof consortium three days to commit itself to a completion date. There is still confusion as to what will happen with regard to a roof over the swimming center as no contract has been signed. Palli-Petralia said the swimming federation will award the construction to a Swiss company with Greek subcontractors as quickly as possible. Souflias lamented the lunar landscape surrounding facilities at Hellenikon, which is full of rubble and in which the planting of greenery has been delayed. He said that new funds would have to be raised to landscape the area. Also, it emerged that boreholes in the area would not be sufficient to water the huge landscaped area, meaning that the Athens water and sewage company (EYDAP) will have to be able to provide 2.1 million cubic meters daily. Visiting construction work on the new tramline, Transport Minister Michalis Liapis noted delays in construction, in the electricity supply, in signposting and in the delivery of rolling stock. The company said the system would start operating in June.