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Olympic Torch Could Stop in Turkey Before Returning to Greece for Games - 2003-10-21


Olympic organizers say that the torch for next year's Games could stop in neighboring Turkey before returning to Athens next August.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said discussions will be held on allowing the Olympic flame to stop in Istanbul. Athens officials did not immediately confirm plans to stop in the Turkish city, saying only that a formal announcement will be made in November.

Istanbul is a candidate to host the 2012 Olympics. It was not on the original list of cities in which the flame would stop.

Also Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul signed the Olympic truce, an attempt to revive the Ancient Greek practice of stopping armed conflict during the Olympics.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee remains concerned next year's Olympics in Athens will be plagued by transportation troubles, less than 10 months before the opening ceremonies.

IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli said Tuesday that his organization has relayed its concerns to the Greek government. Chief among the concerns are long delays in construction of a tram railway from downtown Athens to seaside Olympic venues.

The tram system has been delayed by protests from local residents. A proposed suborn railway system to ease traffic from the Athens airport to downtown has also hit several snags.

Work is behind schedule at several venues including the the old Hellenikon airport, which will host basketball preliminaries, softball and baseball, and the Karaeskaki soccer stadium.

The IOC is also concerned whether a steel-and-glass roof for the main Olympic stadium can be built in time. The government has promised that the roof will be ready by the time the Games open August 13 2004.

An IOC delegation begins a three-day visit to the Greek capital on Wednesday.

In other Olympic news, Canadian cross country skier Becki Scott has finally received the Olympic silver medal she was awarded when Russian skier Larissa Lazutina tested positive for drugs.

Scott finished third in the women's five kilometer pursuit race, but it was later revealed that silver medallist Lazutina tested positive for the banned drug NESP.

Scott appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September to be awarded the gold medal which was won by another Russian Olga Danilova. Danilova also tested positive for the banned drug but not after the five kilometer race.

Both Russian skiers were disqualified from the Games after the women's 30-kilometer race. They were also suspended by the International Ski Federation for two years. The International Olympic Committee later decided to annul all of Lazutina's results from the Salt Lake City Games.

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