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IOC Inspector Pleased with Athens Readiness for Olympics - 2004-05-12

All construction will be completed on time for the Olympic Games in Athens next August. That's the word from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has concluded its final inspection visit to the venues.

After months of construction delays and fears that the Greek capital would not be ready to host the games, the Olympic Committee's chief inspector, Denis Oswald, has given Athens the green light, telling reporters Wednesday that his doubts about the city's readiness have disappeared.

?In the past, we had doubts about some of the venues, some of the structures, some of the construction and I'm very happy to report that all these doubts have disappeared,? he said. ?No single project is at risk and we know that everything will be delivered on time.?

Mr. Oswald's new signal of confidence is a huge relief to the Greek organizing committee. The IOC has been putting pressure on the Greek organizers for months to speed up their preparations for the games.

The head of the Greek organizing committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, has all but acknowledged that Greece wasted three years after it was awarded the games. Much of that was due to political infighting over the awarding of major construction contracts, but she says Greece made up for the lost time.

?We've done seven years' work in just four years' time,? she said. ?This is a fact and this is the proof of what we Greeks can do when we work in a focused and professional way.?

The visit to Athens by IOC inspectors coincided with the beginning of the installation of the main Olympic stadium's massive glass and steel roof, which had been one of their main concerns.

Still, more than half of the venues remain uncompleted and major infrastructure projects like new roads and rail lines are still being built. Construction teams are now working around the clock. Then there is the security problem. Although the Greeks have spent nearly $1 billion to protect athletes and spectators, three small bombs exploded last week near an Athens police station, without causing casualties. The government blamed local radicals and the IOC has dismissed the incident as being unrelated to the Olympics, but the attacks have caused anxiety in several countries about whether the Athens Olympics really will be safe.