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September 15, 2000
Athens rejects spendthrift chargeDina Kyriakidou
Beleaguered Athens 2004 Olympics organisers rejected accusations of overspending from politicians and the media on Thursday and denied that they were paid exhorbitant salaries.
Politicians were outraged this week when newspapers reported that some organising committee (ATHOC) staff were earning 10 million drachmas ($256,800) a month.
"I don't think any Greek should be paid this kind of money...which is four times the prime minister's salary," ruling socialist party deputy and former sports minister George Lianis told an Athens radio station.
ATHOC did not disclose any figures but issued a statement saying that the government had yet to decide renumeration for board members and that their staff were being paid below-market salaries to perform a Herculian task.
"Athens 2004 executives know their responsibilities well," the statement said. "Greece is called to overcome in the next four years problems that have tested...great countries."
ATHOC has been under great pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to speed up long-delayed preparations for the Games.
Delays in venues, hospitality and other areas had prompted stern warnings to Athens from IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch in April but Greece has since rolled up its sleeves.
The salaries row erupted when Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who has most of the government responsibility for the Olympics preparations, cancelled plans to join other Greek officials at the Sydney Games.
The media speculated that he was angry with ATHOC for overspending and over the salaries of some committee members.
Pangalos denied the reports, saying he had too much work in Athens, but the staggering figures being reported in a country where the average salary is some $1,000 a month prompted questions in parliament from both the ruling socialists and the opposition.
"Such salaries cause vertigo to public opinion and especially to the armies of unemployed and hungry," three socialist deputies said in a question submitted to the house.
ATHOC officials said the figures had been exaggerated.
"The numbers we hear are way beyond what is being paid," an ATHOC official told Reuters. "All salaries are competitive but within a balanced budget."
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