Parties row over Athens Olympics bill

Almost a year to the day since Athens staged its successful but costly Olympic Games, a row has broken out between the conservative government and the Socialist party that preceded it in office over the final bill for the event after claims that it could reach 13 billion euros. The argument was stoked yesterday by comments by Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia, who suggested that previous official figures that put the cost of the most expensive Games in history at some 9 billion euros needed to be revised upward. There were suggestions from the government last week that cost calculations had not included the amount spent by local authorities to prepare for the 2004 Games. «For the combined total of all activities, I believe that we have reached 13 billion euros,» Palli-Petralia told private Alpha Radio station. When Athens was awarded the Games in 1997, the initial Olympic budget was set at some 2.2 billion euros. The comment was seized upon by the opposition PASOK party, which governed until March last year – five months before the Olympics began. «The government has to finally present a detailed list of all the activities it is linking to the Olympics instead of resorting to repeated fireworks,» said a statement from PASOK’s press office. «Until it does, the government is answerable to Greek citizens for this unprecedented defamation of the country.» In the only initiative that has come close to an official evaluation of how much the Games actually cost, the government presented a report by the General Accounting Office last November which put the total cost at 8.95 billion euros. According to the report, most of this amount (7.2 billion euros) was covered by the state budget. The most expensive part of the Games was the Olympic infrastructure (2.86 billion), which accounted for 39.7 percent of the total bill. Sports venues and their equipment cost 2.15 billion (29.9 percent), and 1.08 billion (15 percent) was spent on security. PASOK slammed the report at the time, claiming the Games did not cost more than 5 million euros. The Socialists also criticized the government yesterday for failing to make the most of the venues. The Conservatives launched an international tender for three sites last month and plan to follow this up with two more by September.