NEWS

Olympic spending ‘out of control’

Spending for the August Games has soared out of control, with costs for the main Athens Olympic complex already 50 percent above the initial budget, the government said yesterday. Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia, who oversees Olympic preparations, told a press conference that the previous, Socialist, administration had exceeded the stated 4.6-billion-euro Olympic budget. But she said she could not yet provide detailed figures. «The previous government had lost control,» she said. «There are data that have been verified by [state] agencies. We are taking stock, and have written to all ministers so as to receive a general picture. All the budgets have been revised upward.» Asked to say to what extent the initial 4.6-billion budget – which the previous government strenuously insisted that it had stuck to – has been exceeded, Palli-Petralia said she could not offer «an overall estimate at this point.» «All the codes for the projects must be checked. But the budget has been exceeded. At the Olympic Stadium, the budget has been exceeded by over 50 percent.» Former culture minister Evangelos Venizelos issued a statement insisting that the bill would not exceed 4.6 billion euros. «According to the law on public works, separate projects may present increases or reductions of the initial budget,» he said. «But these variations are all taken into account and the overall budget remains at 4.6 billion euros.» While complaining that several projects were behind schedule, Palli-Petralia expressed optimism that the Games would be successful. And she stressed that the government «is doing all that is humanly possible on the matter of security.»