SALT LAKE CITY – Attending the Winter Olympics as a regular fan, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the retired former chief of the International Olympic Committee who, as IOC chief, had spread panic among organizers of the Athens 2004 Olympics when he warned – nearly two years ago – that Greece risked losing the Games because of serious delays in preparations, told reporters yesterday that efforts had improved and that Greece would host a successful Olympiad. «I believe preparations for Athens are faring much better. In the beginning, lots of irretrievable time was lost,» Samaranch said. «I’m sure that the Games will be successful. The Olympics are all about sports and culture. In Athens, it will be about sports, culture and history. Because history belongs to you,» he added. Samaranch, who stepped down from his post last July after a 21-year tenure, issued a severe warning soon after the ruling PASOK party was narrowly re-elected in Greece’s national elections in April 2000. Commenting on commercial aspects of the current Winter Olympics, Samaranch, whose lengthy IOC leadership proved instrumental in expanding Olympiads into ultra-lucrative sporting events, said television ratings were high in North America, Asia and Europe. «I think it was a successful move to decide to stage the Winter Olympics on separate years,» Samaranch said. «Both they and the Summer Olympics have, subsequently, grown.» NBC, the US channel televising the Games, has sold a total of $330 million worth of time to advertisers for the Winter Games. For the Athens Olympics, to which it also holds the rights in the US, having paid $793 million for them, it estimates advertising revenue will reach $800 to $900 million.