NEWS

100-day Olympic sprint starts

As the 100-day countdown for the opening of the Athens Olympics starts today, the International Olympic Committee yesterday gave Greek organizers a verbal pat on the back, praising the frantic pace of the country’s badly delayed preparations. «All the reports I receive indicate just how fast and how hard Greece is working to complete preparations,» IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a special statement ahead of the 100-day mark. He added that IOC inspectors will start a three-day visit to Athens on Monday. «I look forward to hearing more news from them of how much is being accomplished in a short time.» Athens 2004 Organizing Committee head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki admitted that work will continue at its current, breakneck pace until the eve of the opening ceremony. «Today, and for the next 99 days, Athens will be working around the clock to prepare for the Games, testing and putting into place the world’s greatest Olympic venues, and the largest, most comprehensive and best-funded security effort in Olympic history,» she said. Initially budgeted at 650 million euros, the price tag for the security alone has now been revised up to 1 billion euros, while the initial 4.6 billion budget of the Games is expected to end up well in excess of 5.6 billion. Meanwhile, yesterday the government denied a British press report that the IOC has set a May 20 deadline for the new steel and polycarbonate roof on the main Olympic stadium to be in position. The 130-million-euro roof is being assembled in two 9,000-ton halves that are to be slid into place. The positioning was supposed to have started days ago, but did not. Organizers spoke of problems with high winds.