NEWS

2004 doubts double

Just three days after a senior minister first questioned the wisdom of Greece’s undertaking to host the Olympic Games, the country’s top economic official said that if the country knew then what it knows now, «we would not have been so enthusiastic» in bidding for the Games. Giorgos Alogoskoufis, the minister of national economy and finance, said that the Olympics had gone way over budget and delays in construction and other problems had not allowed Greece to reap the good publicity of hosting the Games. «The Olympic Games are costing us much more than we expected, because issues were left for the last minute,» Alogoskoufis said in an interview with Athens’s Eleftherotypia newspaper on Sunday. «In relation to the budget we received officially, the commitments that had been made were about 1 billion euros more, in other words more than 50 percent up. The second important thing is that we lost an opportunity to exploit the Games positively abroad all these years.» In a parliamentary committee session on Thursday, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, who is in charge of many Olympic-related construction projects, said, «I still have doubts as to whether we should have undertaken the Olympic Games.» When members of the PASOK party, which lost power in the March 7 elections, protested that this comment would harm the Olympics, Souflias added that preparations for the Games would be completed on time and that he was only questioning the cost. Conservative government officials say the Olympic budget of 4.6 billion euros will be exceeded by hundreds of millions of euros. PASOK officials say it will stay at 4.6 billion. Alogoskoufis conceded that the long-term benefits of the Olympics were still not predictable. «The balance will be possible in a few years when we see the positive consequences from hosting the Games,» he said. «For the time being the balance is negative. We undertook the Games with the logic that they would show off Greece and give us increased national self-confidence and positive publicity in the years to come. So far, none of this has come about because of the delays and because the international climate is the worst the Olympic Games have had to face in many decades.» Asked to comment on the hypothesis of Greece bidding for the Olympics today, Alogoskoufis said, «I think we would not have been so enthusiastic.»