‘Final stretch’ for Olympics

Prime Minister Costas Simitis urged hard work from his government and Olympic organizers during the «final stretch» of preparations, before meeting yesterday with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge. Rogge, on a three-day visit, is traveling with Denis Oswald, head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Athens, and Gilbert Felli, the IOC sports director. He will unveil the design of the 2004 torch tomorrow. «We had a very practical meeting… There were more solutions and fewer problems,» said Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who attended the 90-minute meeting. The talks covered a general review of preparations, entry requirements needed by IOC officials to attend the Games, plans to boost coordination between agencies involved, and the volunteer drive, he said. «The attitude, behavior, politeness and willingness to volunteer will determine the success of the Games.» Venizelos also announced he had held talks with Olympiakos soccer club to discuss plans to renovate Karaiskaki Stadium, slated to host Olympic soccer games. «As long as work starts by February 15 and there aren’t any particular problems, the stadium will be ready by May 31, 2004,» he said. Rogge is paying his third visit to the city he supervised before turning over that responsibility to Oswald in mid-2001 after his election as president of the IOC. Before meeting Rogge, Simitis met with government officials involved in the Games and 2004 organizers, and urged them to step up their efforts. «We are in the final stretch,» government Spokesman Telemachos Hytiris quoted him as saying. «Everyone should work on the preparations of the Olympics and the completion of the Olympic works, so there is not the slightest delay.» Olympic preparations have been plagued by delays caused in part by legal challenges from citizens’ groups opposed to various projects. In 2002, 48 lawsuits were filed by protest groups against Olympics projects, Hytiris said.

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