IOC Witnesses Important Progress in Athens but Deadlines Remain Tight
With under 500 days to go before the Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission concluded two-and-a-half days of productive meetings with the Athens Organising Committee (ATHOC) and the Greek Government with two clear messages: the organisers need to sustain the sense of urgency and coordinated efforts that have led to substantial progress over recent months in most aspects of the Games preparations; and preparations must now move from their current high quality of operational planning to actual delivery.
Subjects discussed during the meetings included: infrastructure and venue construction, venue operations, sport, overlay and test events, procurement and logistics, Olympic Village and NOC services, city look and operations, media villages, marketing, doping control and medical services, Games workforce and communications. Venue tours were also organised during the visit. Particular progress was noted in the areas of accommodation, volunteers, transport planning and sport preparation.
Security issues were extensively covered during specific workshops attended by representatives of ATHOC and the government, as well as by experts, who praised the quality of the planning undertaken in this area.
The Commission was satisfied to hear that virtually all construction work is now under way, with the organisers working towards precise deadlines. The organisers confirmed that construction of the Olympic stadium roof, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as one of the icons of the Games, would be finished on time. Government representatives also guaranteed that the Karaiskaki football stadium would be ready for the Games. The Commission emphasised that any additional slippage would at this stage affect the quality of the Games, and all possible efforts should thus be deployed to avoid such a situation.
The organisers informed the Commission that all test events, seven of which will take place this summer, will be held in the Olympic venues. The Commission stressed the importance of test events to the building of successful Games. Any postponement could create difficulties and put pressure on the organisers at a time when they should be focusing on the Games themselves.
"Both ATHOC and the Greek Government have shown that they are now working hand-in-hand, and that all measures are being taken to move things forward as quickly as possible", commented Coordination Commission Chairman Denis Oswald. "Tangible progress has been monitored since our last visit, but deadlines remain extremely tight. Work on construction, transport and other overlay projects cannot suffer any more slippage. There is no doubt that organising the Olympic Games is a complex and challenging task. It also represents a fantastic platform for a city to showcase its ability to host a unique event and offer an unequalled legacy and pride to its people. The sense of urgency that has been found in the last months needs to be maintained. We are all committed to moving forward and working together to ensure the success of the 2004 Olympic Games ", he added.
ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said, "We were able to report that significant progress has been made in the programmes led by ATHOC, as well as in the areas of construction and infrastructure, and this despite the problems that we have faced. Our role is to focus on solutions, not problems. In many projects time remains the critical factor, and we will stay vigilant in order to be ready in August 2004. We are working and moving forward together, the IOC, ATHOC and the Government, for the success of the Games. Because we all share in the responsibility of the preparations, we will all share in the success."
In the coming months, working groups of the Coordination Commission will continue to meet regularly with their ATHOC counterparts, and the entire Commission will officially reconvene in Athens in October.