SPORTS

Deadlines for 2004 venue construction getting too tight

Deadlines for the construction of Olympic venues and the necessary infrastructure are getting so tight that officials from the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Coordination Commission are being called upon to believe the hardly believable. Officials from Athens 2004, the Games organizers, told the Commission that they expect bids for the refurbishment of the Olympic complex to be submitted by the end of July and work on the project to start in the first days of August. The project includes the construction of a roof partly covering the Olympic Stadium and other venues and landscaping designed by well-known Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Asked whether the IOC officials expressed any misgivings about the feasibility of these deadlines, Athens 2004 spokesman Seraphim Kotrotsos said that they made no comments on it. «Of course, I do not know what they will tell the ministers,» Kotrotsos said. Yesterday evening, the Commission held talks with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou. The refurbishment of the main Olympic center, which includes the stadium, an indoor arena, indoor and outdoor swimming facilities and a cycling track, has been criticized as too costly and there have been misgivings about the ability of contractors to finish the project on time. The Commission was also informed that there are delays in a number of venues, such as the wrestling arena in Ano Liosia, the tennis courts in the main Olympic complex and the canoe and kayak slalom course at the site of the former Athens airport at Hellenikon. In each case, IOC officials were assured that the delays were small – less than a month behind schedule – and that lost time would be easily made up. A first draft presenting detailed lists of accommodation for the «Olympic family» was presented to the Commission. Organizers said another 1,600 rooms will be made available through upgrading and the extension of existing hotels. The decision on which hotel the IOC itself will use was postponed for the Commission’s next visit. It will likely be the Athens Hilton, now closed for refurbishment, with the nearby Caravel and Holiday Inn hotels providing a supporting role. «Our estimation is that many members of the Olympic family will prefer to be accommodated in luxury cruise ships,» an Athens 2004 official said. The media villages will accommodate 9,880 people in 6,680 single and 1,600 double rooms, IOC officials were told. A total of 1,179 traffic policemen, aided by 82 tow trucks and 540 volunteers will be used to ensure congestion-free traffic during the Games, the organizers said.