Electricity a major worry for the Olympics

Olympic preparations will be the focus of a Cabinet meeting tomorrow, with particular emphasis to be given to three lagging projects. Organizers are concerned about the rate of construction of new power-generating units expected to safeguard the country from blackouts during the Games with their heightened energy demands. Also, progress on two transportation projects, the capital’s new tramline and the suburban railway, are a worry for organizers, as is completion of the Olympic Stadium’s monumental steel-and-glass roof by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It is currently being assembled. Yesterday, following a meeting by the interministerial committee responsible for Olympic preparations, participants announced that problems regarding overdue payments to project contractors, which had led, in some cases, to work stoppages, had been solved. Proceeds from state borrowing early in the new year were being used to cover a substantial portion of debt payments to contractors. The amount is believed to have exceeded 1 billion euros. Another issue in need of a quick settlement is the commissioning of certain overlay projects for venues to make them completely functional. Organizers have reached a decision to pay overlay project contractors between 40 and 45 percent of their fees this year and the remainder in 2005, as part of the government’s plan to overcome Olympic budget restrictions. Construction of new power relay plants, in the capital’s districts of Argyroupolis and Korydallos, ranks as the most serious headache for organizers at this stage. The project’s completion is expected to safeguard against the threat of blackouts during the Games. Residents reacted negatively to the power supply project’s original plan, prompting organizers to make revisions. Beyond Athens, a natural gas-propelled generator is under construction in Viotia, central Greece, to bolster the country’s total energy supply. On the eve of national elections scheduled for March 7, Telemachos Hytiris, the government’s Olympic spokesman, told reporters, following yesterday’s interministerial meeting, that «Olympic preparations will not stop or be influenced by the entire period of pre-election campaigning.» Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Olympics organizing committee, agreed that «Olympic preparations cannot stop or slow down for any reason.» Tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting on preparations coincides with a two-day visit by IOC inspectors, headed by Denis Oswald, the man in charge of the Athens Games’ coordination. The two-day visit, beginning today, will seek to gauge the works before a major IOC gathering in Athens next month. The small delegation also includes Gilbert Felli, the IOC executive director of the Olympics. Venue construction for the August 13-29 Games should be a main topic during the meetings. This has been a worry for the IOC for years, although organizers have made up for lost time with near round-the-clock work. The Olympic Stadium’s steel-and-glass roof remains a top concern for the IOC. «It’s probably the most difficult issue,» Oswald recently told The Associated Press. «We don’t need the roof for the Olympics, but it would be nice to have it.» (Kathimerini, AP)

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