Atlanta officials under fire

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The Independent Online
Olympic Games

Organisers of this summer's Games said yesterday that their $1.7bn (pounds 1.13bn) project would be ready for the opening ceremony in exactly 100 days, despite reports of chronic delay and missed deadlines.

"[The projects] that are unfinished are unfinished by design," Billy Payne, the chief executive of the Atlanta Committee for the , said. "We will be ready to celebrate the best ever, which will begin in 100 days' time.

"All of the construction is now completed. The venues are extremely safe, they are extremely beautiful and they are extremely functional," he said.

Payne was responding to a flurry of media reports which allege a litany of delay and disaster in the ambitious Olympic reconstruction which is transforming Atlanta's city centre.

Despite Payne's assurances, a mountain of work remains to be done at many venues and Olympic sites to prepare them for the world's biggest sporting event from 19 July to 4 August. Non-ACOG projects such as repaving freeways and replanting verges has made the city a gigantic hard-hat site.

Centennial Olympic Park, at the heart of the city and the main public focal point for the Games, is still full of diggers and potholes, with little showing through the mud to indicate its finished form.

Work at the aquatics centre is delayed because of a construction accident. Other venues, including the shooting complex and the whitewater sports venue on the Georgia-Tennessee border, are behind schedule.

The most embarrassing delay so far was the chaos involving a six-nation pre-Olympic hockey tournament, which had to use a university campus pitch instead of the Olympic venue.