NEWS

Phevos, Athena, Pinocchio?

In a major public relations embarrassment for a government that had pledged to hold green Olympics in 2004, a leading international environmental group yesterday said Games organizers had broken nearly all their promises. «The International Olympic Committee has forgotten that it once declared the environment as the third pylon of the Olympics,» Nikos Haralambidis, head of the Greek department of Greenpeace, told a press conference in Athens. «Athens 2004 organizers are quietly, timidly and inactively looking on as nearly all the environmental specifications it issued are being broken and the government is just in a hurry to finish the works in time, irrespective of their quality and of environmental repercussions.» «In that sense, the mascots of the 2004 Athens Games should not just be Phevos and Athena, but Pinocchio as well,» he added. Haralambidis said none of the promised environmentally friendly projects have materialized so far, while the Olympic Village will not make use of solar power systems or water recycling. The General Secretariat for the Olympic Games responded by publishing a list of a score or so of green projects «that are on course and being executed.» These included «the planting of greenery at Olympic sports venues… public spaces in Athens and other Olympic cities… and the Olympic Village» – in an apparent reference to government promises last year to plant up to 100 million new trees, bushes and assorted plants in Athens by 2004, at a cost of nearly 3 million euros. This promise prompted Denis Oswald, head of the IOC Athens Coordination Commission, to observe during a visit to Greece earlier this year that «trees need time to grow.» Yesterday the government said the total budget for the Games would be 4.51 billion euros.