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September 12, 2000
Four years is too little for AthensAdrian Warner
The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday Athens had made progress in putting its troubled plans to stage the 2004 Olympics back on track but warned that time was tight.
The Greek city's new chief Olympics organiser, Gianna Angelopoulos, appeared to convince the IOC that she was getting preparations into top gear and also tried to allay concern about Greece's security record.
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who warned Athens in April that the Games could be in danger unless organisation was drastically improved, said the Greek city had a very difficult task to be ready but expressed more confidence in its plans.
Athens has revamped its organising committee since Samaranch told the city it had until the end of the year to get its act together. It brought in a high-profile chief in Angelopoulos who led the city's successful bid for the Games in 1997.
After Angelopoulos gave a presentation to the meeting, Samaranch said: "You lost three years. Now you only have four years. That is very much difficult. (But) I am sure we have the confidence that you will get it."
The IOC still has serious concerns however about the schedule of the Greek city's infrastructure plans, including railway links to venues. Although the city already has an impressive complex of athletics and swimming venues in place, a quarter of the Olympic facilities have yet to be built.
The United States has long criticised Greece for what it sees as a failure to do enough to combat guerrilla activity. U.S. officials have said recently however that Greek efforts have improved.
The June 8 killing of a British diplomat in Athens by a leftist guerrilla group highlighted security concerns.
Angelopoulos said Greece had signed a security agreement with the U.S. government last week and would sign similar agreements with other governments in the near future.
"We assure you we take it very seriously," she said.
Angelopoulos, a confident French and English speaker, did not face a serious grilling during the session but had to answer questions from some members who were keen to see venues in place as soon as possible so that test events could be staged before the Games.
"We will work day and night," she told the meeting. "We have made a lot of progress during the last three months. We are back on track."
Afterwards Angelopoulos told reporters: "I think we got a very good reception. We believe we have made substantial progress but, of course, we have much more to do."
A large team of Athens representatives has travelled to Sydney for the 2000 Games to observe the way Australia has organised them, from security to transportation.
Jacques Rogge, the IOC's chief coordinator for the 2004 Games, told the meeting: "The coming six months will be crucial. On paper the general plan is sound. The matter is it has to be implemented."
"Time has been lost in the past. No time can be lost in the future. The clock is ticking."
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