SPORTS

2004 promotion going well, accommodation still a worry

Securing hotel rooms during the 2004 Olympics is still a worry for International Olympic Committee sponsors, an IOC official said yesterday. «The question of accommodation remains challenging,» said Michael Payne, the IOC marketing director, following a two-day conference that included national and international sponsors. «I am confident that in the coming weeks we will resolve the issue.» Lodging is one of the most serious problems still faced by Athens organizers and the government. About 90 percent of Athens’s 21,000 top hotel rooms have been be reserved for the «Olympic Family,» which includes IOC officials and sponsors. But sponsors want to know exactly where they will be staying during the Games and arrangements are still unclear. «I believe with the collaboration of the IOC we will be shortly able to define who is getting what,» said Marton Simitsek, a top 2004 executive. Plans being drawn up include putting some spectators and officials in private homes and apartments. Others include package tours that place fans in holiday resorts and bring them to Athens for Olympic events. Despite lifting a 15-year-old ban on the construction of new hotels in the Athens area last year, the government has decided there is now time to build new hotels, which would also be hard-pressed to find enough customers after the Olympics. But Payne added he was «very impressed and pleased with the tremendous progress Athens has made in the last 12 months.» Payne also praised Athens organizers and the government on plans for changing the look and image of the city, which has been robbed of much of its former charm by runaway development. The licensing program «exceeds expectations» and products with the 2004 mascots are selling extremely well, Payne added. «It’s the best mascot of the Games in terms of marketing and overseas manufacturers can’t stop making them, which proves they’ve been well accepted by the market,» he said. Many of the national deals struck so far have broken records, including a $50-million accord with telecommunications firm OTE. Athens organizers still have several sponsors to sign on, including an airline as well as in the areas of energy and fuel. Some sponsors may be announced next month. The sponsor of the 2004 torch relay may be unveiled after organizers present their plans to the IOC in August, Simitsek said. IOC international sponsors for 2004 are Visa, Coca-Cola Co, Eastman Kodak Co, John Hancock Financial Services, McDonald’s Corp, Samsung, Panasonic, SchlumbergerSema, Sports Illustrated / Time Inc and Xerox. Athens’s so-called Grand National Sponsors are OTE, Alpha Bank, Athenian Brewery, Delta Dairy, state radio and television company ERT, the Post Office, Hyundai and Swatch. Athens 2004 organizers received more high marks yesterday from the International Archery Federation (FITA). A delegation, led by FITA President James Easton, who is also an IOC vice president, visited Athens and found arrangements for the event very satisfactory. The event was switched from its original seaside venue to the Panathenaic Stadium in the center of Athens, because of problems with the prevailing winds.