NEWS

No obligation on 2004 roads and rooms

Dismissing International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials’ dismay at the government’s decision to cancel four promised major Athens road intersections for 2004, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday Greece had no obligation to build roadworks, nor a media village. In an attempt to assure the IOC that the capital’s perennial traffic congestion would not affect the Games, Greece had originally promised to build three flyovers on Kifissias Avenue, one at the top of Alexandras Avenue and one opposite the Hilton Hotel on Vassilisis Sophias. But during his visit to Salt Lake City for the opening of the Winter Olympics, Venizelos notified IOC President Jacques Rogge that only one intersection would be built – at Psychico. «We are under no obligation to build anything,» he told a press conference yesterday. We have an obligation to facilitate traffic, not to carry out roadwork. But we will try to build as much as we can by 2004.» Venizelos, who, after Prime Minister Costas Simitis, is Greece’s top government official involved in the country’s slow Olympic preparations, said the same applied to accommodation. «We have undertaken to find accommodation for a much larger number of people than is foreseen in the 2004 contract,» he said. «We do not carry out infrastructure works because the IOC wants us to, but because it is the wish of our people.» And he accused the IOC of bullying Greece. «The IOC behaves in one way toward a country of 10 million people that feels it should always be making excuses for itself, and in an other way to a superpower of 300 million that controls the entire world.» Venizelos also made a point of berating Salt Lake City officials for not mentioning Mikis Theodorakis in the credits for the music played during the opening ceremony – an omission which drew extensive complaints from Greece’s most-respected living composer. Meanwhile, Greece’s highest administrative court yesterday rejected appeals against construction of the Kifissias Ave flyover at Psychico. According to court sources, the Council of State opined that the project will not damage the environment, as critics argue. The court also approved plans to broaden the Marathon course from Marathon to Stavros on condition that trees over eight years old in the forests bordering the road are not cut down.