IOC hears renewed promises

Yesterday’s contacts between Dennis Oswald, member of the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Commission (IOC), and Athens 2004, the organizers of the Olympic Games, produced a number of decisions on the straightforward issues, while those on more sticky subjects, such as a decision to build junctions on Kifissias Avenue leading to the Olympic Stadium and hospitality, were put off until April. On the yet more difficult issues – the suburban railway and the tram line – ministry officials almost had to swear that the projects will be completed in time. Oswald’s visit comes at a moment when – after the letter showing project delays which main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis presented last week – the clash between government and opposition over the 2004 Olympics has intensified. The government now hopes that at tomorrow’s press conference Oswald will avoid any negative comments on the progress of preparations. Today, he is meeting the ministers of culture, transport, public works, development and labor to discuss progress in their domains. Regarding the more important and pressed-for-time projects of the suburban railway and the tram line, officials promised they will be in operation early in 2004. For the tram, in particular, the contract for the procurement of rolling stock is expected to be signed before the month is out, while the contract for the railway is projected for next month. The IOC is pushing for more junctions on Kifissias Avenue to speed up access to the Olympic Stadium, but the ministry considers that only one junction will be ready by 2004, and that there is no time to build the others. Today, the board of directors of Olympic Village SA is meeting to repeat the tender for the village’s «green zone» which had been fruitless, to IOC’s evident displeasure. Final decisions on accommodation will be made in April, during IOC’s next visit. Yesterday, Athens 2004 officials told Oswald they had secured 15,767 beds from the 19,000 needed for Olympic officials alone. However, the IOC appears concerned by the fact that Athens hoteliers have raised their prices. Tourism General Secretary Dimitris Georgakakis told Oswald that he considers annual price increases of 15 percent «logical.» However, it is said that hoteliers have exceeded even this generous limit. It was agreed that 11 cruise ships, moored in the port of Piraeus, will provide accommodation for 13,408 visitors. However, there remains a large gap to fulfill the needs of visitors. Athens 2004 officials hope that many will agree to be accommodated on Greek islands and shuttled to and from Athens on charter flights to see the Games.

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