Athens 2004 plans fall further behind schedule

Work at some long-delayed venues for the 2004 Olympics has been boosted to a dawn-to-dusk schedule in Athens, with no weekend breaks.

Work at some long-delayed venues for the 2004 Olympics has been boosted to a dawn-to-dusk schedule in Athens, with no weekend breaks.

It is not just a matter of getting the job done by the opening ceremony or trying to impress the International Olympic Committee, which begins a three-day inspection of preparations on Wednesday.

Fresh pressure is coming from sports federations demanding that organisers live up to promises to have many venues ready months before the Games in order to double-check specifications and hold test events. Vassilis Keramidas, the civil engineer at the planned wrestling and judo hall that straddles the fault line of a deadly 1999 earthquake, said: "We are working as fast as possible."

Additional seismic reinforcement is slowing down construction and some project officials doubt whether it will be ready for a wrestling test event scheduled for July 2003.

Such predictions will only add to worries at the IOC. The Greek government – in charge of all major Olympic works – believes the planning effort will get more praise than blame from the reviewers this week. But that is not a sure bet as sports federations grow more nervous about pre-Olympic test events.

"I cannot hide the fact that the sports world has a number of concerns," said Denis Oswald, chief IOC overseer of the preparations. "They have nothing to do with Greece's ability to stage the Olympic Games, rather the difficulty of doing so in the limited amount of time left before August 2004."

Oswald has warned that Athens will be "racing against time right up to August 2004" and cannot afford any "unpleasant surprises" such as earthquakes, labour strikes or discovery of antiquities.

But that is exactly what has happened at the planned Olympic equestrian centre in Marcopoulo, about nine miles south-east of central Athens. Crews have uncovered ancient finds, including what archaeologists believe is a 2,500-year-old shrine to the love goddess Aphrodite.

The discovery of what also served as a brothel is not expected to seriously slow the construction. But any more finds on the site could throw the project behind schedule.

At the planned table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics centre in the suburb of Galatsi, where test events are planned for March 2004, construction has been slowed by unforeseen rock beds and the target date is in doubt.

However, the biggest problems are likely to arise at the former international airport on the coast south of Athens.

Planners shifted the canoe and kayak course to the former airfield last year after environmentalists and others protested against the original site north of Athens. Work has yet to begin on the highly technical water courses, which normally go through months of fine-tuning before a major event.

The government, meanwhile, is tiptoeing around any subject that could anger trade unions and further disrupt construction. Proposals to reform Greece's nearly bankrupt pension system have effectively been put on hold until after the Olympics.

The IOC will be briefed on other potential trouble spots, including Athens' struggle to find 60,000 Olympic volunteers and plans to place spectators in private homes because of a hotel room shortage.

The IOC team also is likely to seek explanations over a legal challenge by the mayor of Athens to plans for a suburban light rail system, which is part of attempts to ease the city's chronic traffic chaos during the Games. The suit seeks to block the project because of fears it could even make traffic more congested in some areas.

But for Athens' Olympic planners, it is all a matter of perspective. Things have been so much worse that the latest woes seem less worrisome. The former head of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, sharply lambasted Athens in 2000 for delays that put the games in jeopardy. And as recently as September, Oswald was warning of "alarming delays" before finally lauding Athens for getting on track.

"There are, of course, always some pending issues and some problems that surface on a daily basis and that is natural," said Tilemahos Hitiris, a government spokesman. "In general terms... the Olympic works are materialising according to the timetables."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?