NEWS

IOC will worry till opening of 2004 Games

The head of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission overseeing preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympics considers the picture «positive overall» but also expressed disappointment in the strongest terms yet over the cancellation of important infrastructure works and warned that accommodation and transport were the areas of greatest concern. «We consider that the situation will be at risk until the beginning of the Games,» Commission Chairman Denis Oswald told reporters yesterday. Only six Commission members came this time. A full Commission visit will take place in early April. Yesterday, the Commission and Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of Games organizers Athens 2004, met with several ministers. The agenda focused on sports venues, transport infrastructure, the Olympic Village, media villages and accommodation. Accommodation is shaping up as the IOC’s greatest concern. «We were disappointed to hear there was hardly any progress,» Oswald said. Currently, 2,800 more rooms are needed to house Olympic officials and other dignitaries alone. As for the visitors to the Games, who, Oswald said, «are not the IOC’s concern,» Athens 2004 seems to labor under the misconception that most will only stay in Athens briefly and that many can be accommodated on the islands and ferried to the Games for an occasional attendance. Regarding transport infrastructure, Oswald declared he was «disappointed and concerned» to hear that only one of three interchanges on Kifissias Avenue would be built, due to lack of time. He urged the government to reconsider. Oswald was also distressed to hear that, while the suburban railway to the Athens airport will be built, rolling stock may not be ready. He certainly disapproved of the Greek officials’ suggestion that diesel trains be used instead, saying they would be noisy, not as fast and polluting. Oswald expressed the most satisfaction about progress in the construction of the Olympic Village.. But even there problems exist, such as on the future use of the «international area» and delays in the greenery to be planted. «Trees take years to grow, you know,» he said. «Israel doesn’t have the height, but plays zone defense with a lot of shoving. We’ve got to be careful with our defense, because, depending on the refereeing, we may be on the receiving end of many surprises,» Ioannidis said. «The absence of Yiannis Yiannoulis, who is tailor-made for this particular match, is heavy,» he added.