IOC president hails Athens' progress - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

IOC president hails Athens' progress

By Lisa Orkin 15/01/2003 06:02:49 AM Comments (0)

Once threatened with losing the 2004 Games, Athens Olympic organisers were lauded by IOC president Jacques Rogge for "outstanding and evident" progress.

Rogge is in Athens to present the 2004 torch and review preparations 19 months before the Olympics. He is accompanied by Denis Oswald, head of the IOC coordination team for Athens, and Gilbert Felli, the IOC sports director.

Rogge held Oswald's job before he was elected IOC president in mid-2001. At the time, his visits to Athens were marked by frustration over delays. The situation grew so bad by 2000 that the IOC warned that Athens could be in danger of having the games taken away.

"I am glad to tell you the progress is outstanding and evident," Rogge said. "Now we see the construction really emerging out of all the different places."

Rogge and chief 2004 organiser Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki took a helicopter tour of most of the Olympic venues, many of which have faced years of bureaucratic delays.

"We see a great momentum," Rogge said. "Of course, the deadlines are tight. There is something unique in the Olympic Games: It is that you never change the date and the hour of the opening ceremony."

"If you are to launch a space shuttle, you can delay for a day, for a week, for a month," he added. "Mrs Angelopoulos does not have that luxury."

Some problems persist, with security topping the list. The government has not yet approved a long-delayed $400 million security contract.

Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said security equipment needs to be tested and personnel must be trained before it is ready for the Olympics.

Athens plans to spend more than $600 million for security, for many Olympics a top priority that has assumed even greater urgency following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Oswald said he discussed the security contract with Premier Costas Simitis on Monday.

"The prime minister gave us assurance that this contract will be signed very very soon," Oswald said.

Oswald also said the government assured the IOC that equipment needed for transportation projects will be delivered on time.

Plans to build a domelike roof on the main Olympic complex may also proceed, Oswald said. It has been uncertain if there is enough time remaining to build it. He said a final decision will be made in April.

"All indications we have show that this should be completed on time and would a very strong legacy to the city," Oswald said.

Another concern, he added, was the renovation of Karaeskaki stadium in Piraeus that will host all the soccer games in Athens and the men and women's final. The government promised construction would begin by January 10, but later pushed it back to February 15.

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