NEWS

Simitis wants drastic action for Olympics

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday urged officials involved in the Athens 2004 preparations to take «drastic measures» and, where necessary, to slice through red tape. Stressing that «the dates are fixed,» he called for all outstanding legal problems to be solved by the beginning of next month. Simitis met with ministers involved in the Olympic preparations after a meeting with Athens 2004 head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who briefed him on preparations ahead of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspection on November 6-8. «The projects must move ahead quickly, with decisive steps and drastic measures where necessary,» Simitis said. «Bureaucratic procedures, for example between public utilities and other public services, must be shortened, and, when necessary, ministers must take decisions» on their own initiative, Simitis said. Olympics spokesman Telemachos Hytiris told reporters that Simitis expressed confidence that the aim was to show the IOC inspectors that «progress is being made in preparing for the Games.» On specific issues, Simitis appeared displeased at the fact that the artistic overhaul of the Athens Olympic Complex by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was being held up by legal disputes between construction firms and petitions by local groups, as were the Olympic projects at Hellenikon and Goudi. But ministers at the meeting said they believed the high courts involved would have ruled on these issues by the end of this month. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is in charge of preparations overall, said he expected the contractor for the Calatrava project to have been chosen by November 6. Simitis also asked for closer cooperation between Olympics organizers and local mayors, many of whom were elected in last weekend’s municipal elections. Some local authorities are opposed to Olympics-related projects, such as the construction of electricity sub-stations, and so on. Hytiris said that Olympic soccer games in Athens will be played at the Rizoupolis Stadium while the IOC would decide whether the final would be there or at the Olympic Stadium.