NEWS

Vast Olympic budget overruns

The cost of Olympic construction projects handled by the Public Works Ministry – over a third of the total price tag for the Games – has already exceeded the original budget by nearly 40 percent, the government admitted yesterday. According to the previous, PASOK government, the Olympics were to cost a total of 4.6 billion euros, most of which was to be spent by the General Secretariat for Sport. Responding in Parliament to a question by Synaspismos Left Coalition MP Assimina Xirotyri, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said the ministry’s initial budget of 1.65 billion euros had swollen to 2.27 billion. He blamed PASOK for the mess. «These overruns were decided by the previous government,» he said. «Our government has only increased the budget by 7.7 million euros. And this was… for a new project that was not part of our initial commitments – the landscaping of the Hellenikon venues and their flood protection.» While pledging that all construction would be finished in time, Souflias denied the increased pace of work at most sites will cause further budget overruns. «Each constructor signs a contract which mentions when the work will be completed,» he said. «Whoever does not deliver on time will suffer the consequences of the law, which are very harsh.» Also yesterday, Police Chief Fotis Nassiakos told an Athens police conference there was no sign of Al Qaeda terrorist infiltration of Greece ahead of the Olympics. But he added that «if Al Qaeda means to strike, then it is already here.» Meanwhile, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and Transport Minister Michalis Liapis discussed public transport and traffic measures during the Games. The government is soon to launch a public information campaign on the matter.