NEWS

All set for Olympics

As IOC and Greek officials enthusiastically proclaimed that all was ready for a successful and safe Olympiad, now that preparations were complete, the Games received another boost yesterday. In addition to 70,000 officers on the beat in Athens, electronic surveillance underwater, on the streets and in the air, warplanes and missile batteries watching for rogue aircraft, and NATO patrolling Greece’s sea and air borders, Pope John Paul II called on a higher authority. «I hope with all my heart that in this world, which is today troubled and at times very upset by so many forms of hatred and violence, the important sporting event of the Games produces an occasion of calm meetings and works to promote understanding and peace among peoples,» the pope said, addressing pilgrims at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome. «On the Olympics and the entire world of sport, I invoke the motherly protection of the most Holy Virgin,» the pontiff added. Last night, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece added its own hope that «the Games will be conducted in a spirit of solidarity and peace, far from conflict, far from acts of violence and displays of brutality.» International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge noted that Athens had come through with its preparations, shortly after the IOC was given the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee’s final report yesterday. «The IOC is extremely pleased by the preparations,» Rogge said. «We urged the organizers to show a sense of urgency and they have done that. Promises have been kept. We look forward to the Games. These Games will be very, very good,» he said. Denis Oswald, the IOC executive who oversaw the Athens preparations, told The Associated Press with regard to the Greeks: «What they have achieved is fantastic… You could not dream of that state of preparations a year ago.» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis visited the Olympic shooting, equestrian and rowing centers on Saturday and declared, «We are ready for excellent and safe Games.» The White House national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, praised Greece’s security preparations but remained wary. «We believe that they really have worked very, very hard at it. Again, it not possible to say with complete confidence that you can avoid an attack,» Rice told CNN yesterday. «It’s just the nature of it.»