SPORTS

2004 roof expected on time

The delayed steel-and-glass roof of Athens’s main Olympic stadium will be in place – as originally designed – by mid-May and renovation work on the venue will be finished in June, a top government official said yesterday. «By the end of June, the entire stadium will be delivered, and by the end of July all the overlays [will be ready] for the opening ceremony,» Fanni Palli-Petralia, the deputy culture minister coordinating the August 13-29 Games preparations, told The Associated Press. The International Olympic Committee had originally said both of the roof’s massive steel arches should be rolled into place above the stadium by April 28 (yesterday). Otherwise, the project would be scaled back and strands of glasslike plastic covering the arches would not be installed. But to make up for lost time, contractors have already begun laying the strands before the arches will be pushed into place, Palli-Petralia said. «The covering could have been a source of delay. But that’s not the case now, because 80 percent of the [work] is finished,» she said. The roof’s Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, had envisioned the structure as the signature image of the Athens Games and has described it as his «Olympic dream.» The arches can only be moved on a clear day without wind, to avoid the risk of breaking apart. Palli-Petralia said the arches could start to be moved by next week and the whole process should be finished by mid-May. «The final date does not change,» she said. «From the moment that it starts to move it is then a matter… of not many days.» The arches will be inched into place on rollers over more than 60 meters (197 feet). Work inside the stadium for the Opening Ceremony has already started, she said. The roof will be the centerpiece of the Games, but has also become a symbol of Athens’s serious preparation problems, which have caused much worry to IOC officials planning the Games preparations. «They could have done it in a more easy way, less nerve-wracking for everyone, but what counts is whether it is ready,» IOC President Jacques Rogge said this week. To insure work at the main Olympic complex enough time before the Games, Palli-Petralia said she is conducting nighttime inspections – or «raids» on construction crews.