No need to panic over funds, says sports minister

Responding to media reports warning that Greek track and field was being deprived of considerable State funds allotted in preparation for next summer’s Athens Olympics, Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, in charge of the country’s sports portfolio, told an emergency news conference yesterday that there was no reason for alarm. «By no means is Greek athletics going bankrupt. The financial problem faced by athletic federations goes back 10 years,» Lianis told reporters. «All the Olympic sport federation presidents have received 100 percent of their Olympic grants,» he added. A report published in the Ta Nea daily yesterday contended that Lianis was confronting a shortage of close to 60 million euros in designated funds from the state budget. Sports federations had not received between 20 and 25 percent of this year’s allotted funds, the newspaper report added. Several months ago, the report said, Lianis, as well as Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, resorted to seeking a bank loan to cover the pressing sporting needs after the Finance Ministry and other state-sponsored sporting agencies failed to respond. The federations at first offered unanimous support, Lianis said, but then some changed their minds. At yesterday’s news conference, Lianis proposed that, to cover immediate needs, sporting federations should receive a loan, guaranteed by the General Secretariat of Sport, to be repaid by January. Lianis underscored that the Greek track and field’s condition was not ailing. «Greece ranks 10th in the world in terms of track and field distinctions. What do they all want then, Greece to be No. 1 in the world, like the USA?» Lianis remarked. The deputy minister asserted that he and Venizelos were working on a long-term formula for institutionalized funds for Greek track and field.