It is, perhaps, the first time that a responsible minister has stated categorically that it is impossible to meet the current timetable for the completion of Olympics-related projects. According to sources, these remarks were voiced by new Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou at yesterday’s joint ministerial committee which deals with the preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games, surprising its other members. In the first few days in her new post, Papandreou obviously realized that the public reassurances made by her predecessor – that the projects will be completed according to schedule – are groundless. And she, of course, rushed to distance herself from his statements in order to avoid taking any blame which is not hers. In doing so, however, she has exposed the former public works minister and new PASOK Secretary Costas Laliotis, who had, over the previous period, stuck to the dogma that an offensive is the best defense. In the same spirit, Laliotis is now trying to create tension between the ruling Socialist party and the opposition. The truth, as regards preparations for the Olympic Games, remains that even the most favorable evaluation fails to generate optimistic conclusions. Even if Papandreou’s remarks yesterday contain some element of hyperbole, it is still clear that everything will be judged at the last minute. This means that there has been practically no consideration for negative and unexpected developments – which are in fact part of our lives. Given the pressure for time, the government will most likely resort to the practice of direct assignment, thereby undermining transparency and healthy competition. It has been proved in the past that great delays raise the cost of projects. In light of this, one would expect that the tight deadlines would have put the government on the alert and urge it to meet the challenge, even at the eleventh hour. Unfortunately, this never happened. The allocation of deputies to various ministries with the aim of accelerating Olympics-related programs is expected to create more problems than it will solve. It is no coincidence that ministers maintain control over programs which fall under their jurisdiction. The main question, however, concerns the quality of the Games organized by our country, their overall cost, and the fallout of a potential fiasco – or even failure – in organizing this global event. All these moves reveal an endless economic momentum and confirm the appropriateness of domestic moves such as the sale of the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETBA) to the private Piraeus Bank. The present economic turmoil has opportunities for those who avoid wringing their hands and dare take bold decisions.

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