At least eight big cruise ships needed in 2004

Greece is looking for at least eight big cruise ships to dock at the port of Piraeus during the 2004 Games to cover a hotel shortage for Olympic officials and spectators, organizers said yesterday. The Athens 2004 organizers (ATHOC) said an international tender would be advertised in the next few days to hire the ships to cover part of the city’s accommodation deficit, a top concern for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). «These ships, which will be docked at Piraeus, must have a total capacity of over 7,000 cabins,» ATHOC said in a statement. Athens is struggling to come up with rooms for 2004 and has announced the cruise ship plan, along with a scheme to rent private homes in Athens, in an effort to allay IOC fears that the Greek capital will be short of accommodation. The IOC has repeatedly warned Greece over delays on most organizational fronts mainly due to bureaucracy and infighting but has recently applauded efforts to catch up on lost time. ATHOC said it was putting together an action plan for Piraeus so that the port would be able to handle the thousands of officials and spectators expected to stay, work and play there during the Games. «It foresees upgrading the power, communications and firefighting networks and the creation or expansion of passenger depots and parking lots,» ATHOC said. Organizers said ATHOC will rent about 30 percent of the cruise ships’ capacity for its own needs and owners can put the rest out for rent on the open market. The accommodation costs will be determined by the bids made and the cost of docking will be paid by the shipowners. Bring your own ship The Swedish Olympic Committee has already booked a 900-cabin cruise ship to dock at Piraeus for its own and other national committees’ needs, ATHOC said. Others were also considering the option of hiring their own ship. The Piraeus port area made available for 2004 has a capacity to dock about 12 ships but major works still need to be completed for the country’s biggest commercial port to handle the throngs expected during the Games.