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|August 26, 2000||
Greece 2004 in further troubleDina Kyriakidou in Athens
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Thursday that Greece must run a marathon at sprinting speed to make up for delays in organising the 2004 Games in Athens.
IOC co-ordinating commission president Jacques Rogge said that although great progress had been made since the IOC issued a stern warning to Athens, the clock was ticking.
"You can't add pages to the calendar," Rogge told a news conference. "The marathon ahead will have to be run at sprinting mode."
Rogge's team spent two days evaluating progress in areas ranging from hotel accomodation to sport venues, after giving Athens 100 days to shape up.
He appeared pleased with the progress made since Prime Minister Costas Simitis made the Games the country's top priority but he also made clear the IOC would tolerate no more delays.
"We are pleased with the progress...but time is critical," he said. "We will not allow further delays."
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had warned Greece in April that the Games could be endangered if the country failed to improve its organisation drastically.
The yellow card mobilised Simitis, who took personal charge of overseeing progress, ending two years of bureaucratic wrangles, in-fighting and government indifference.
Rogge said most issues of concern that were discussed with the Athens organising committee (ATHOC) and government officials were being addressed effectively.
He said a much-delayed deal with Athens hoteliers to book 25,000 rooms for the IOC was signed, the Olympic Village construction was put on track and a tender for broadcasting rights was expected to be completed by the end of October.
But he was not pleased with the timetable for the construction of five venues for sports such as canoeing, sailing, baseball and beach volleyball, which the Public Works Ministry said would be ready by May 2004.
He said he had asked the government to bring the dates forward to allow for test events and Olympic overlays.
Recruitment of ATHOC staff before the Sydney Games and renovation of existing venues appeared on schedule, with 14 major transport infrastructure projects back on track, he added.
But he disappointed environmentalists, who wanted his help to change plans to host rowing and canoeing events in the sensitive wetlands in Skinias near Athens, saying that although he would meet with them, the IOC had approved the plans.
Eight environmental groups, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), sent him a letter requesting a meeting and announced they had issued a complaint with the European Commission over the Skinias.
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