Athens given green light as stadium roof takes shape

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The Independent Online

International olympic officials yesterday banished any lingering doubts that Athens would be ready to host the Games this August.

After months of warnings over severe delays, the IOC overseer, Denis Oswald, said frenzied building work around the Greek capital was making good progress at the end of his final inspection tour. "No single project is at risk, we know everything will be delivered on time," he said. "In the past we had doubts. I am very happy to report that all these doubts have disappeared."

Athens won the right to stage the games in 1997 but has been the target for constant criticism since an IOC warning in 2000 that the delay-stricken city risked losing the event. In a sign of the new-found confidence in Athens, organising chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki took the credit for completing seven years work in just four. "Athens has won back three years of lost time... it's a fact that we are completing a seven-year project in four years," she said.

The clearest sign of progress has come at the main Olympic complex where two giant steel arches are inching their way towards each other to form a spectacular roof over the 75,000-seat stadium.

"The sliding of the roof into place over the stadium is more than just an incredible feat of engineering," Oswald said. "It is a symbol to the outside world of the progress that has been made."

The IOC had set a deadline of the end of May for finishing the superstructure of the dome, which threatened to delay key work on the stadium itself.

Greece is still set for the tightest of finishes ahead of the 13 August opening ceremony. Vital train and tram lines to transport visitors around the congested capital are still being built and more than half the venues have yet to be finished. Construction sites are set to continue working round the clock.

Oswald warned that the bricks-and-mortar phase is not the final one, with Olympic overlays - the technical and operational infrastructure inside the venues - and testing still waiting. "Because the delivery of infrastructure and venues has been delayed, the time remaining to test operations is limited as we want to test everything under Games conditions," Oswald said.

He also endorsed the Greek government's view that last week's bombings in Athens were unconnected to the Olympics and said they would not affect security planning. Athens has set aside $1billion (£570m) to safeguard the Games - three times the figure spent by the previous hosts, Sydney.