IOC rings 2004 alarm bell

The International Olympic Committee is worried by delays in the construction of venues for the 2004 Athens Olympics and in infrastructure transport projects. The world expects from Greece very special Games… but it can only work if the basic requirements for the infrastructure are met, if the athletes have competition venues where they can compete in the best conditions, if they are accommodated properly, if they are transported properly… The best athletes in the world deserve the best facilities, Denis Oswald, the new chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission overseeing preparations told reporters yesterday. Oswald succeeded Jacques Rogge, who was elected IOC president on July 16, succeeding Juan Antonio Samaranch. Rogge also visited Athens, on Tuesday and Wednesday, but did not take part in the commission’s briefings with the government and Games organizers Athens 2004. He did visit Prime Minister Costas Simitis, however, and said afterward that Greece faced an unprecedented task with so many projects to complete. My predecessor said, and I have repeated on different occasions, that the most important thing now is to manage time, Oswald said. Without saying as much, he made it clear that the Greeks’ management of time, especially the government’s, has been atrocious. Of the many projects whose construction is being delayed, Oswald singled out the Galatsi Indoor Hall, which will host table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics, and the Goudi sports area, where Modern Pentathlon will be held. Infrastructure projects that concern the IOC include the planned tramway linking Athens and Piraeus to the coastal suburbs to Glyfada and road access to the Olympic Village, now that a planned extension of Kymis Avenue that would link the Olympic Sports Complex and the Village has been canceled. Measures must be taken up immediately to make up for lost time, Oswald said, adding that the parties involved, namely the various government agencies and Athens 2004, must make efforts to improve cooperation. He made it clear that he was addressing this message especially to the government. Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki also took aim at the government, saying that government must support, not with words, but with (deeds). Areas of preparation that pleased the IOC include marketing – where, with only 6 of 40 national sponsors found, Athens 2004 has exceeded its target – communication, media and broadcasting operations. Speaking on security issues, Oswald said that tightened visa requirements had been discussed but that it was too early to focus on specifics. Slight tremor. Coastal areas of Athens and the port of Piraeus were slightly shaken by a 3.8 Richter earthquake at 2.12 p.m. yesterday, recorded in the sea bed off Vari, 23 kilometers (14 miles) southeast of Athens. Geodynamic Institute seismologist Maria Sahpazi told Kathimerini there appeared to be no cause for concern. It is a region where there are small tremors on a regular basis, she said. No damage was reported.

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