Committee of three to resolve 2004 Olympics’ tangled finances

A three-member committee appointed by Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday has been charged with solving awkward Olympic-related budget disagreements between the State and Athens 2004, the upcoming Olympics’ organizing committee. Last week, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the Athens 2004 chief, emerged from a meeting with the prime minister and ministers looking distraught after discussing the financial responsibility for 750 million euros’ worth of overlays for stadium extras such as electronic scoreboards and other facility accessories. Members of the ruling PASOK party have often accused Angelopoulos-Daskalaki of lavish spending that has heavily burdened the Olympic budget. Reports following the heated meeting, during which both sides sought to burden the other with the overlay costs, said that Angelopoulos-Daskalaki considered resignation. Insiders say that a compromise deal has been reached. If so, it remains undisclosed. Recently, the government has repeatedly declared that no additional funds would be made available for the Athens Olympics. As a result, the newly formed three-member committee may need to seek other sources of financing. The possibility of a new loan cannot be ruled out. The committee is composed of Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras, Athens 2004’s personnel manager Thanassis Papageorgiou, and Asimina Asimakopoulou, a top adviser to Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. Besides the overlay cost dispute, other financial hurdles still need to be solved by the organizing committee. Rumors have been rife that various local sponsorship deals negotiated by Athens 2004 are below optimal value. On another front, Athens 2004 announced yesterday that it has completed a personnel evaluation program as part of an effort to maximize its operating efficiency. The evaluation covered the organization’s entire hierarchy. Though the results have not been announced, reliable sources said the assessment considered one in three Athens 2004 employees to be underemployed. The organizing committee intends to gradually bolster its staff as the Athens Olympics approach. Official figures showed that, last December, a total of 1,023 persons were on the Athens 2004 payroll. The Games organizer plans to increase this figure to 1,600 this coming September, 2,000 by December, 3,745 in May 2004, and 6,300 during the Games.