Olympic price tag up by 50-70 bln?

The cost of expropriations, court appeals against construction works and an ambitious facelift to the Olympic Stadium will escalate the cost of the Athens 2004 Games by some 50-70 billion drachmas, sources said yesterday. During a series of meetings at the Economy and Finance Ministry yesterday, government officials are understood to have settled on that figure, which is expected to be officially announced by Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Monday. In September 2000, the government said 1.2 trillion drachmas of public funds would be spent on the Olympics. Last June, this figure was revised to 1.5 trillion. Officials have since denied strenuously that this budget will be exceeded. Ministry sources said yesterday that, apart from the cost of buying privately-owned land for Olympic venues, court decisions and Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s plans to transform the dowdy, 20-year-old stadium at Kalogreza into an elegant centerpiece for the Games have inflated the budget.

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