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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Athens receives thumbs up
Juan Antonio Samaranch - IOC President
Juan Antonio Samaranch - soon to step down
Outgoing Olympics chief Juan Antonio Samaranch has told the Athens Games organisers that he has confidence in the way the 2004 Olympics are being organised.

"I am sure the Games will be a great success for you, for Greece but also for the Olympic movement," said Samaranch, who will retire as president of the International Olympic Committee in July.

Earlier, Games organisers were urged by Olympics chief co-ordinator Jacques Rogge to stick to their tight timetable for completion of preparations for the 2004 games.

"Basically I am satisfied with the progress. The calendar is very tight and they must respect it," said the IOC vice-president.

Leading candidate

Rogge - favourite to win July's vote in Moscow to succeed Samaranch - said his two-day visit to Athens was a private one.

He is accompanying Belgian King Albert on his first official visit to Greece, but Rogge has also scheduled meetings with Games organisers and Samaranch.

Samaranch is in Athens to give a speech and make some presentations at an international Olympic academy event on Wednesday.

Last year, he had warned Athens that the Games could be in danger if organisers failed to speed up progress.

The preparations had been dogged by bureaucratic delays, in-fighting and resignations.

That threat concentrated minds in Greece, much to the satisfaction of the IOC and Rogge himself as the committee's chief inspector.

But some issues, such as accommodation, and several sporting venues, including the equestrian centre and the weight-lifting site, are still lagging behind schedule.

Rogge accompanied King Albert on a tour of the stadium with Games chief Gianna Angelopoulos and rejected claims the King's visit to Greece was supporting his candidacy for the presidency.

Main opponents

"It is just a coincidence, I am here because of the King," he said.

King Albert had been an IOC member between 1960-65, Rogge pointed out.

"He has always shown a great interest in the Games. It's not a coincidence that he visited this stadium, it's an historic site," Rogge said.

Rogge's main opponents in the IOC race are Canadian lawyer Dick Pound and South Korean politician Kim Un-Yong.

American former rower Anita DeFrantz and Hungarian Olympic fencing gold medallist Pal Schmitt are outsiders.

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