Olympic inspectors made a tour of key sites around Athens on Thursday as Greek ministers tried to allay their concerns over delays in the construction of what many had hoped would be the jewel in the crown of the games -- the main stadium's giant glass-and-steel roof -- and two crucial transport projects.
The ministers said all the sports venues, including the stadium's landmark dome, would be ready by the time test events were held in June next year, two months before the Olympics.
But inspectors from the International Olympic Committee, who will conduct one other check before the event, appeared unconvinced.
In particular, they are concerned about a new tramline and suburban railway which is supposed to be completed in time for the event.
The inspectors have questioned whether more than a quarter of a million visitors could reach venues around the sprawling, often gridlocked capital.
Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who heads the 2004 Olympics organizing committee, conceded that they were worried.
"Concern has been expressed over the [suburban railway] project and this is one of the things we will discuss with the IOC to see how justified they are and to see how we will get past the difficult phase."
The 24km tramline and 32km railway are meant to link stadiums with the international airport.
The tram system alone is expected to transport 8,500 spectators an hour. IOC officials see the project as vital given the Greek capital's notoriously traffic-clogged streets.
But slipping construction deadlines -- blamed on insufficient environmental studies, court cases brought by protesting residents and the discovery of antiquities -- have raised the possibility of scrapping more than a third of the tramline's planned stations.
The Greek government has promised to provide buses to ferry people from the airport if the suburban railway is not finished on time.
Greece's culture minister, Evangelos Venizelos, who is in charge of government preparations for the games, tried to ease the IOC's concerns.
"The lines needed for the games will be ready," he said. "We will do even more than what the IOC wants. We will have the whole project ready ... not just the parts needed for the Olympics."
Greece is the smallest state since Finland, in 1952, to stage the Olympics.
Increasingly the preparations are being seen as a project to modernize a country that only 170 years ago belonged to the Ottoman empire's forgotten southern reaches.
"What we are building is the new Greece," Costas Simitis, the Greek prime minister, said last month.
Although IOC officials including the committee's president, Jacques Rogge, have recently praised Athens for the progress it has made in the construction of many sites, they privately reiterated their concern about the delays that have dogged work on the main stadium's ambitious arched roof.
Before ending their visit today, the IOC delegation is expected to urge the Greek organizers to finalize a multi-million dollar security contract, Kikis Lazarides, the Greek Cypriot IOC member said.
"But what the Greeks will succeed in doing is hosting a very different Olympics, by blending the modern with the ancient.
"Only they can do it and, in that respect, the games will be unique."
As they celebrated Naomi Osaka’s victory in the final of the US Open in New York City’s Flushing Meadows on Saturday, Tokyoites were eager to embrace their heroines’ stand against racial injustice. Osaka, who won her third Grand Slam title with a victory over Victoria Azarenka, has used her platform to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, wearing a mask bearing the name of a different African American before each of her seven matches in the championship. She had donned masks bearing the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Philando Castile. On Saturday, she walked
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
THOROUGH THRASHING: Hualien City beat Taichung Blue Whale 2-1, ending their three-year winning streak with one round of matches left and eight points to spare Hualien City on Saturday clinched this year’s Taiwan Mulan Football League title with one game to spare, by beating Taichung Blue Whale 2-1 at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City. Hualien City have scored 38 points this season. Blue Whale are second on the scoreboard with 30 points, while Taipei Bravo are third with 23 points. One final round of matches is to be played on Saturday. It is the fourth league trophy for Hualien City, and ends Blue Whale’s three-year winning streak. Hualien had won the title from 2014 to 2016. Both teams defended well, leaving few chances in front
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7