More problems lurking under Olympic roof

An admission by the government earlier in the week that the much vaunted roof over the Olympic Stadium in Athens had some technical problems that were being fixed, failed to mention that experts have recommended that further safety checks and improvements take place, it was revealed yesterday. The 17,000-ton steel-and-glass roof may have more problems with many of its welded parts as well as some of the joints that have been screwed into place, the German maritime and construction safety firm Germanischer Lloyd AG is reported to have informed the government. This particular part of the report, however, was not made public earlier in the week, when the Culture Ministry, which coordinated efforts for last year’s Athens Olympics, reacted to media stories about the problems with the roof. The ministry made copies of the report public but failed to include the last paragraph, Skai radio alleged yesterday. The rest of the report by the German company, which had begun inspecting the roof last March, said that some parts had been poorly welded and that there were large gaps between some of the steel poles supporting the roof, which needed to be closed. Reacting to extracts of the report that appeared in Tuesday’s Kathimerini, Alternate Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia provided reassurances that the roof was safe. She also confirmed that repair work was under way to rectify any problems. This work is due to be completed by the end of the month but Palli-Petralia made no mention of Germanischer Lloyd recommending any further checks or repairs. When the missing paragraph was made public yesterday, the minister first said she was not aware of this part of the report but later admitted she had read it. The part of the document in question says that due to the deficiencies that have been discovered so far in some of the welding on the structure, checks should be extended to the steel tube that supports the roof and the joints on the roof arch. The structure, designed as the jewel in the crown of the Athens Olympics projects, cost some 244 million euros to build and put in place but has been dogged with problems since its inception by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. After months of indecision over whether construction of the roof would go ahead, the structure only began moving into place last May – some three months before the stadium was due to host the opening ceremony for the Athens Games. The project also came in 36 percent over budget and the consortium involved in the roof’s construction is suing for another 53 million euros. The stadium is now home to two of Greece’s biggest soccer clubs, Panathinaikos and AEK.

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