NEWS

2004 plans modified

With deadline pressures as strong as ever and the government anxious to keep a lid on the costs, several projects related to the 2004 Athens Olympics will have to be trimmed down or modified. The International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission has accepted these modifications to plans but has insisted that cuts not compromise the quality of venues. During the Commission’s two-day visit, which ended today, it was decided, among other things, to build one hockey field instead of two, to modify the canoe-kayak slalom course, to place temporary stands at several venues – especially in sports not so popular with the Greek public – and to scrimp on greenery around venue areas. Coordination Commission Denis Oswald, who decided he had to go along with the cuts, even agreed that grass is not suitable to Athens’s hot and arid climate. «We support these reductions. A lot of things can be made in a more simple way than what was planned… We do not want to leave white elephants behind,» Oswald told reporters yesterday. Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of Athens 2004, the Games organizers, said that venue modifications would save between 190 and 300 million euros from the government’s budget of 4.37 billion. Athens 2004’s budget of about $1.7 billion, mostly funded through the sale of TV rights by the IOC, is balanced. Overall, Oswald expressed the commission’s «general satisfaction» with the preparations, saying that «the situation has evolved positively» since his last visit in March. The accommodation of some 20,000 officials, for example, has been resolved. With 777 days to go until the opening of the Games on August 13, 2004, several slight delays in venue construction persist. The refitting of the Karaiskaki stadium at Neo Faliron, where the soccer final was supposed to take place, was thrown into doubt last week when the contractors involved refused to sign the contract, demanding more state money as aid. «We insisted that a solution has to be found, in Athens,» Oswald said. However, apart from AEK’s Nikos Goumas Stadium, also in need of expensive refurbishment, no other realistic alternative exists in Athens. Oswald is still concerned about how transport will work in this congested city, especially after learning that most of Athenians would rather stay and watch the Games rather than leave on holiday.