Keen to convey a positive message on the progress of projects for next year’s Athens Olympics, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday held a news conference at the Athens Equestrian Center in Markopoulo, on the city’s outskirts, which is now nearing completion. The center, considered 90 percent complete, will be one of several facilities to be used during next month’s series of seven test events in and around Athens. «This is reality. We’re not displaying models but projects,» noted Venizelos in his opening remarks, while asking aides to remove a model of the completed equestrian center that was placed before him. «This project is among the best Olympic projects and we’re proud that we will host a test event [here] in a few days’ time,» added Venizelos, who headed a government delegation on yesterday’s visit to the Olympic venue. The project, due to be handed over to Olympic officials on the final day of this year, has been budgeted at just under 250 million euros. The venue’s show-jumping course, installed with 6,000 permanent seats and provisions for an additional 14,000, will be used for the test event at Markopoulo. The equestrian center’s facility for the dressage event has an 8,000-seat capacity. Other parts of the complex now nearing completion include a semi-sheltered training arena, three training grounds for dressage, four training arenas for jumping, the center’s stables, which will cater for over 300 horses, as well as supplementary facilities, such as a veterinary clinic, and box office. The center’s grounds for the three-day event promise to be particularly impressive. Local officials are hailing this part of the center as the best of the past 10 Olympics. The city’s new racetrack, part of the Olympic complex, which will replace the capital’s old venue at Faliron, is scheduled to be handed over by developers on September 20. The 8,000-capacity venue has been installed with stables for over 1,600 horses, training grounds, restaurants, and a 4,000-capacity parking lot.