SPORTS

Bach praises Athens 2004 president and marketing, ticketing programs

International Olympic Committee Vice President Thomas Bach said yesterday that progress in the preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games was «satisfactory» but that there was not a moment to lose. Bach singled out for praise Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of Games organizers Athens 2004, during a visit to the organizing committee’s headquarters. «I believe preparations, in general, are progressing in a satisfactory manner. Of course, there is not a minute to lose; however, all involved have understood that they must work together. We have complete confidence in Athens 2004 and especially its president, Mrs Angelopoulos, as well as in the government. That is why I am optimistic,» Bach said. On Tuesday, Bach told a Greek-German Chamber of Commerce dinner that the Athens 2004 Games will be a great success despite the recent reprimand over a repeated slippage in deadlines. «Don’t (imagine) a bleak future… My personal view is that we will experience grand Games and they will open up new dimensions.» Three weeks ago the IOC warned Athens organizers to stop bickering and speed up progress. But Bach said there were several success stories hidden in the preparations, including marketing and ticketing. «When we talk about problems, we must not only show the shadows but highlight the positive sides as well,» he said. Olympics organizers have said they have already exceeded their local sponsorship target by 13 percent with only a fraction of total contracts signed. «Athens has the best marketing program in the history of the Olympic Games… and the Games’ ticketing program is the most inclusive such program ever,» Bach said. Athens 2004 has considerably reduced ticket prices compared to the Sydney Games in 2000 with more than half of all tickets costing 20 euros. But he warned organizers not to waste more time on in-fighting and bureaucracy. «Maybe two years ago, a 15-day delay was no problem, but now a 15-day delay is a real problem,» he said. Bach referred to the imminent war in Iraq, saying that the IOC would work harder to ensure that all athletes attend the 2004 Games. «We are not a political organization, but from today on, we will have to work harder,» he said. (Reuters, Kathimerini)