Olympic delays confirmed

Yesterday’s meeting of the interministerial committee overseeing the preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games confirmed that the construction of several important venues is falling behind, a fact that meeting participants could not hide but tried to gloss over. There are some difficulties and problems on some projects. These delays are often justified. But the fact still remains that there are some deadlines by which these projects must be completed, said Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who also alluded to impatience by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to see these projects up and running. From September 25-28, the IOC’s Coordination Commission will visit Greece to report on progress. The new head of the Commission, Denis Oswald, has been less diplomatic about Greek delays than his predecessor, Jacques Rogge, who was elected IOC president in July. Oswald has said, only half in jest, that even unexpected natural disaster must not be allowed to occur in the years leading up to the Olympics. Rogge, who will also visit Greece, is also expected to strongly press the government, as he would not like to see the first Summer Olympics during his tenure fail. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose portfolio includes sports, reported that the equestrian installations in Markopoulo, near the new Athens airport at Spata, faced delays because of legal issues concerning land expropriation but added he was convinced the problems would be overcome. Environment and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said that in the Faliron Delta, where beach volleyball, tae kwon do, boxing and handball will be staged, preliminary works had begun, after several delays. In Galatsi, where the construction of the arena that will host table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics and which faced a legal challenge from environmentalists and other civic groups, the problems had been resolved and construction would go ahead. In general, the ministers stressed the fact that the completion dates for the projects would not be affected, deputy government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris told reporters after the meeting. In the area of Goudi, where the modern pentathlon and badminton contests will be staged, a prefabricated arena seating 3,000 will be built, Hytiris added. The construction of two tramlines connecting Athens and Piraeus with the southern seaside suburb of Glyfada will begin this year, Hytiris said.

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