FIBA chief pressures for venue completion

Work to transform a former airplane hangar into an Olympic basketball arena must show significant progress by April, a top official of the sport’s international federation said yesterday. Borislav Stankovic, secretary-general of FIBA, hopes to see serious construction under way by the next International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspection visit in April. «I will be very happy to see the work start,» Stankovic said. But he noted that he had high-level promises that work would be completed in time for the 2004 Games. «We worry, that is true,» Stankovic told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Munich, Germany. «We have some kind of guarantee – even from the government – that the hangar will be ready for basketball in March 2004.» The test event is scheduled for the same month. The original completion date was December 2003, he said, adding, «We must be optimists.» The basketball venue – part of a sports complex at the former seaside airfield [at Hellenikon] – is just one of many Olympic sites behind schedule. During the IOC’s April visit, several important decisions will be made. Officials must also decide whether to go ahead with plans to cover the main Olympic stadium with a steel-and-glass roof designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Last month, the top IOC overseer, Denis Oswald, warned «there are still a number of critical areas,» which include the preliminary basketball venue. Because of the delays, Stankovic said that FIBA sent a letter to the 2004 Olympics organizers asking for monthly reports on progress at the site. Construction on the venue is scheduled to start this month, he said. (AP)

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