Preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympics are picking up speed and much lost ground was made up for in the past year, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told a meeting yesterday of Cabinet members and other officials involved in the effort. A new press center will be set up at the Zappeion Mansion in central Athens and a task force will undertake to coordinate media issues between ministries, said Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris, who is the spokesman for the Olympic preparations. The coordination of communications was imperative, especially for Greece’s image abroad, Hytiris explained, as visits by foreign correspondents will increase greatly in the future. Simitis asked once again for a quicker pace in the preparations, saying that the basic aim was for construction crews to be working at all sites by the end of the year. In 2001, he said, 95 percent of targets were met with regard to tendering projects and 80 percent in terms of getting basic work crews into action. And then there were the banks that charged a commission of up to 300 drachmas on the euro coins, effectively treating them as foreign currency.