SPORTS

Government dedicated to staging ‘perfect Olympics’

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday pledged that his government will meet construction deadlines for all Olympic sports venues, where many delays had caused international concern about their timely delivery for the 2004 Games. As he toured the site of a once long-delayed weightlifting hall, Simitis said the progress made on the venue in the western suburb of Nikaia showed his government’s determination to meet construction deadlines. «The indoor arena in Nikaia is going faster than scheduled, a fact that shows our dedication to the timely delivery of all works,» Simitis said on his first-ever tour of an Olympic construction site in the capital. Past delays at Nikaia and a number of other venues had caused such concern with the International Olympic Committee that it issued an unprecedented warning in 2000 that the Athens Games were in danger. Athens has since made up for much lost time, but the IOC has warned deadlines are now so tight there is no margin for any more delays. «We are going ahead well, we are going ahead very well. It is not only us that are saying this, but all those who very closely watch our country,» said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, head of the Athens 2004 organizing committee. Simitis said past criticism about delays had been made by people who did not have all the facts. «We may start a little late, but when we start we go ahead steadily and achieve our goal,» Simitis said. «The Olympic Games will be perfect Olympic Games.» Simitis is visiting several Olympic construction sites as part of an effort to showcase the Socialist government’s achievements ahead of municipal elections on October 13. The local elections are considered a crucial political indicator and could serve as a litmus test for national polls to be held a few months before the Olympics. On Wednesday, Simitis visited the Cretan port of Iraklion, where the government is building a new soccer stadium. The facility will host the Olympic soccer preliminaries along with Volos, Patras and Thessaloniki. Former Sports Minister Yiannis Kourakis, who accompanied Simitis on his visit, is running for mayor. Simitis was far more restrained in his praise at Iraklion, emphasizing the work that still needs to be done. «Now is not the time for cheering. We will celebrate only after the end of the Games and only when we see that everything went as planned,» he said. «Today we must work systematically and without interruption to achieve our goal.» Today Simitis will visit the two press centers – one for electronic and one for print media – being built near the Olympic Stadium. (AP, Kathimerini)