A very tight schedule

The complex upgrade of Athens’s Olympic Stadium and the surrounding area, based on a plan by noted Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, will only be ready at the last moment before next year’s Olympics, not taking into account possible complications. Questioned by Kathimerini, Nassos Alevras, the deputy culture minister in charge of Olympic projects, admitted that everything will be up in the air until May 2004, less than 90 days before the Games’ opening ceremonies on August 13. In a year’s time, the glass-and-steel structure covering the stadium, which will be constructed in Italy and assembled in Greece, will be ready to be fitted in place. The structure involves two steel arches with a spread of 304 meters each – this gives an idea of the magnitude of the project. If, for some reason, the covering fails to fit in with the stadium roof, authorities will be forced to look for an alternative with no time to spare. It is not surprising, therefore, that both the government and Athens 2004, the Games organizers, do not even want to envisage such a possibility. When we asked Alevras about such a possibility he replied, «It would be better not to have mishaps like that.» And if they happen? «Everything will be all right,» he said hastily. Works on the refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium complex have finally begun, after a series of legal challenges that have tightened the timetable. These involve two steel-and-glass roofs, the one over the stadium and one over the cycling track. They also include a sweeping semicircular construction linking the main stadium with the cycling track, the «Agora,» a closed space dedicated to the Games’ sponsors and commercial activity and the «Wall of Nations,» a curtain-like structure that will be the focus of artistic events and will also serve as a giant screen. The total cost, 212 million euros, has raised plenty of criticism. But, as Alevras says, «It will be the only architectural legacy of the Games.»