Athletics: Row puts Athens in financial turmoil

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The Independent Online
Divisions among the organisers and a late start in preparations have created a financial nightmare for organisers of the sixth World Championships, which open in Athens on 1 August.

The championships were awarded to the Greek capital after Mexico City turned them down because of a lack of funds, and although the final cost is expected to be around $36m (pounds 21.5m), projected revenue is only $7.3m.

Although Gothenburg, the 1995 host city, was given $7m by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the Greek federation, Segas, agreed to undertake the project with no funding. Soon the bills were running high, including $4m for security measures which include 15,000 police on duty throughout the championships.

Sports under-secretary Andreas Fouras and former Segas president Stratos Molivas spent a year publicly insulting each other over who was responsible for the mess and who had the upper hand in running the event, putting all preparations on hold.

"With about 10 months to go we had to rush to find suppliers and had no choice but to accept their high prices," the championships' general manager, Vangelis Savramis, said.

One week before the start, the Olympic stadium is still a giant construction site with workers installing new cabling, replacing broken chairs, painting interior walls and installing desks and telephone lines for the media.

Athens, which lost the 1996 Games to Atlanta, is second favourite to Rome to stage the 2004 Olympics. The other three on the shortlist are Stockholm, Cape Town and Buenos Aires.

Carl Lewis, winner of nine Olympic gold medals and a record eight World Championship golds, will run his last competitive race in Berlin on 26 August. The race, a 400m relay with his Santa Monica Track Club team-mates, Leroy Burrell, Mike Marsh and Floyd Heard, is part of an IAAF grand prix meeting.

"That will definitely be his last competitive race," his coach, Tom Tellez, said. The 36-year-old will end his career on 13 September in an exhibition relay on his home track at Robertson Stadium in Houston during the Pittsburgh- Houston game.