NEWS

IOC officials push for real progress in 2004 projects

Members of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission charged with inspecting Greece’s progress in organizing the 2004 Athens Olympics yesterday voiced their displeasure at presentations made by officials from the Greek government and Athens 2004, the quasi-independent organizing body. We don’t trust you, we have heard the same things many times, said Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady, vice president of NBC Sports. NBC is televising the Games in the US. Costas Kartalis, general secretary for the Olympics Games at the Culture Ministry, heatedly replied that he would not put up with someone questioning the government’s veracity and credibility. He added that the task of all concerned was to stick to the completion dates for the projects. Afterwards, Gilbert Felli, the IOC person responsible for monitoring construction projects, commented that Gilady’s views were personal but also respected. The main reason for the outburst was the continuing delay in the construction of Olympics venues and related transport infrastructure projects, which is the responsibility of the government. However, Athens 2004 officials were not immune from criticism this time. Many of (the Athens 2004 officials) use the long delays in several projects as a pretext, a cover-up for their own inadequate preparation, an IOC member said. One aspect of the preparation of the Games, the marketing and sponsorship program, is going very well. Its presentation yesterday was canceled because the new Coordination Commission president, Denis Oswald, wanted to pay a visit to the rowing center at Schinias, northeast of Athens. The project, long in doubt because of opposition by environmental groups, is one of the few progressing according to schedule. Oswald is a former Olympic rower and a current president of the International Rowing Federation. Progress in the construction of the Olympic Village has been made but problems have arisen, with contractors asking for a revised budget. The second largest project, the Olympic Equestrian Center, is still at a preconstruction phase, with the construction companies not yet chosen. A similar cloud hangs over the International Broadcasting Center (IBC) and the media villages. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos met Oswald yesterday and gave assurances the projects will be ready on time.