Questions over 2004

The number of debacles that have plagued the preparations for next year’s Olympic Games in Athens is rising. Last week’s rowing test event was scourged by high winds and capsizing boats. Dozens of foreign athletes were infected with salmonella and were forced to drop out while others had to race at 6 a.m. Each of these unfortunate events has its own explanation but, put together, the blunders point to a more general problem. No one, of course, expects the Olympics organizers to control the weather conditions or to prepare the meals of the athletes themselves. But someone must be responsible for the fact that the rowing center was built in a wind-prone area. Someone must be responsible for the choice of the specific hotel, whose restaurant has been blamed for the food-poisoning incident. This «someone» is no other but the Athens 2004 Olympic organizers. The recent failures question the ability of Athens 2004 to fulfill the extremely complex task of administrating and coordinating its organizational duties. The poor organization and implementation of the relatively insignificant, individual test events provides legitimate cause for concern. It is to be wished that these early blunders will ring the alarm bells and mobilize the people of Athens 2004. There is still time to make corrections and avert any serious damage. The staff of Athens 2004 is made up of a 1,500-strong army of personnel, including 200 journalists. It is a question of proper management whether this force will be channeled into the preparations for a flawless organization of next year’s Olympics or continue to convey the impression of being caught up in a mammoth, albeit unproductive, public relations hoopla. Everything seems to show that what was originally believed to be the most daunting problem – namely the government’s ability to construct the Olympics-related projects in time – has been overcome, even though at a higher cost than projected and without much transparency. On the other hand, Athens 2004 must quickly tackle the organizational issues that threaten to torpedo next year’s Games, resulting in the humiliation of this country.