NEWS

IOC officials inspect progress of Olympic preparations in Athens

ATHENS – International Olympic Committee officials yesterday began a two-day inspection visit of Athens, one of their last such reviews before the Games begin next month. The visit by Denis Oswald, Athens Games coordinator, and IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli, comes at a time of euphoria among Greek Olympic officials buoyed by their country’s stunning victory in soccer’s European Championship. «The Greek national football team’s victory in Portugal proves we are working hard and systematically as a team – just as we are working to organize the Olympic Games,» Athens organizing committee chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said late Tuesday. The IOC delegation was also to hold talks with the government’s top Olympics officials, including Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia. The team is also touring Olympic venues today and may then travel to the island of Crete for tomorrow’s return to Greece of the Olympic Flame. The Flame will return home from an international trip to complete the second leg of a domestic relay that will end at the main Olympic stadium on August 13. The stadium complex is one of the few remaining Olympic venues where construction work has not been completed. Delays attributed to the stadium’s glass-and-steel roof pushed back delivery of the entire complex to the end of July. Most Olympic projects, however, have been completed or are in the last phases of construction. Infrastructure works, such as a tram linking southern seaside venues to the city center, have been finished. The Olympic Village, where 16,000 athletes and officials will stay during the Games, has also been completed and will be officially opened on July 30. Remaining delays include the security system that will help safeguard the Games – which was supposed to be delivered on May 28. Greek newspapers reported yesterday that the security system could be further delayed because some Greek officials have refused to accept its delivery. The officials, who were not named, reportedly did not think the system was ready. There was no comment on the reports from either the government or the American-led consortium setting up the system. The security system is being installed by a consortium led by San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC. Many of the delays so far have been due to SAIC not getting the 255-million-euro contract for the system until May 2003, just 15 months before the Games.