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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 15:14 GMT
Greece 'to be ready for Olympics'
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC, Athens

Olympic stadium
The Olympic stadium is a source of pride to many Greeks
The head of the International Olympic Committee says he is confident Greece's new government will complete the work for this summer's games on time.

Jacques Rogge said the games would be a success, after meeting new Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens.

The announcement came amid concerns that preparations for the Olympics are still badly behind schedule.

Mr Rogge has given the Greek government two weeks to study a list of faults with the preparations.

In particular, he is concerned about serious delays in preparing the high-tec steel and glass roof of the main Olympic stadium, which is designed to be the architectural focal point of the Athens Games.

He is also worried that the installation of new railway lines and tramways has fallen behind schedule.


But the main reason for Mr Rogge's upbeat message appears to be the fact that Prime Minister Karamanlis has taken personal charge of the preparations:

Costas Karamanlis
Karamanlis has insisted on daily inspections of the building site
"For us, it is a great relief and for us it is a great satisfaction. When you work with a team, it's always easy if the boss is taking responsibility.

"Yes, it's going to make a difference of course."

Mr Rogge refused to criticise the people ultimately responsible for the delays - Greece's former Socialist administration, which was roundly defeated in last Sunday's general election.

The Olympic chief said the Greek people had to work with the new government to ensure the games were a success.

As she left the prime minister's residence, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyanni said that under the new conservative government the building work would definitely speed up.

Saturday's meeting was the first between Olympic chief Jacques Rogge and Costas Karamanlis since the election.

Architectural jewel

Mr Rogge had given the Greeks every opportunity to back out of finishing the avant-garde roof of the main Olympic stadium, which has been bedevilled by construction problems.

Last month, he said the games could go ahead without it.

But the retractable steel and glass cover, designed by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, is supposed to be the architectural jewel of the 2004 Games and as such has become a symbol of Greek pride.

The new government summoned Mr Calatrava to Athens to discuss the lack of progress and, after talks with the deputy culture minister, it was announced that the roof would not be abandoned.

After the discussions, Mr Calatrava tried to escape from reporters through a back door but, after being cornered, declared that everything was going very well with this magnificent installation.

Mr Karamanlis, though, clearly is not taking such assurances at face value and has insisted upon daily inspections of the building site.

The prime minister has put his personal reputation and political future on the line by appointing himself minister in charge of the Olympics.

The BBC's James Ingham
"The government has been given two weeks to make some crucial decisions"

Greek PM takes over Olympic helm
09 Mar 04  |  Europe
Athens under pressure
08 Mar 04  |  Olympics 2004
'Shock and awe' in Greek media
08 Mar 04  |  Europe
Profile: Costas Karamanlis
08 Mar 04  |  Europe
Country profile: Greece
29 Feb 04  |  Country profiles

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