OPINION

IOC responsibilities

This time, the acid flung at Greece came not from the newspapers and television channels but from the Olympics chief himself, which renders the acid more poisonous. The comments by IOC President Jacques Rogge will most likely spark a new round of critical reports and bulletins – but this is not the worst part of the story. Most importantly, Rogge’s interview with the Belgian daily Le Soir does not aim to make a bad impression or pressure the Greek authorities into accelerating the pace of Olympics preparations. Rather, the president’s remarks are a sign of a broader outlook. Rogge’s remarks that Athens had presented a «minimum of virtual venues» is effectively a self-critical one as the IOC knew from the very beginning that the Greek capital was not ready, meaning that the necessary infrastructure projects were not in place. Any justifiable criticism of the Greek authorities should focus on the delays in Olympic-related projects. Interestingly, Rogge slams the now-departed government of Costas Simitis for nourishing delusions of grandeur. Rogge now claims that the IOC had from the very start insisted on the construction of simple venues and in due time. The IOC criticism here is not groundless. Moderation has never been a characteristic of preparations for the 2004 Olympics, a fact which is not unrelated to the personality of the Athens organizing committee president, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. The Athens bid for the Games bears her own stamp. On the other hand, a great deal of the responsibility lies with the former government of PASOK for having embraced the penchant for nouveau-riche grandeur that went hand-in-hand with the greed of sleaze-ridden contractors. This is only one side of the coin. The other concerns the behind-the-scenes agreements that enabled Athens to win the bid for hosting these Summer Games. Much of what is now presented as decisions by Athens was in fact dictated to a large degree. The IOC president only tells half the story. The fact that he was not the IOC chief back then does not mean he now has the right to play his personal power games on the back of Greece. If Rogge really believed that Athens should organize a simple Games that would differ from previous ones, he should have said so when he took over as IOC president and also proposed the necessary changes. Rogge has no right to do so now, 50 days before the Games. That is, unless his criticism serves a different goal, one that is reflected in yet another meaningful remark: «They should not come to us and say that we are to blame for the high cost of the Games.» To be sure, the IOC ought to shoulder a part of the security cost. After 9/11 the security cost skyrocketed, and Greece must by no means be held accountable for that.