Athens must make 'another step forward'

Within hours of hailing the Sydney Games as the best ever, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch put Athens on notice to speed up preparations for the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Within hours of hailing the Sydney Games as the best ever, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch put Athens on notice to speed up preparations for the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Samaranch said the Greek government needs to do more to overcome three years of chronic delays in construction of venues and other projects.

"I think with the new organizing committee things are going much better," he said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "But we need another step forward. The cooperation of the government must be much more important. The government must be more involved in the games."

Samaranch warned earlier this year that the Athens Games were in danger because of the delays. Since then, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who led the Athens bid, was brought back to run the organizing committee, and Premier Costas Simitis has assumed government control over the games.

But Samaranch said Athens should go a step further and follow the model of Sydney, where the head of the organizing committee was also a government minister.

Angelopoulos-Daskalaki has complained the government has not done enough to cut through red tape and must work faster. Greece's public sector is notorious for its lack of organization and slow pace in completing construction works.

"A huge work like the organization and carrying out of the Olympic Games cannot be done at the pace of the Greek public sector," Angelopoulos-Daskalaki told the Greek daily newspaper Ethnos.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas on Monday denied rumors the flamboyant head of the Athens Organizing Committee had threatened to resign because she was frustrated with bureaucracy.

The morning after the flame was extinguished in Sydney, Samaranch took a few moments to reflect on the emotions he felt closing his 10th and last games as head of the International Olympic Committee.

"I wasn't sad, but I was emotional," he said. "I had 20 years behind me as president of the IOC. I was thinking I was very lucky. I was very lucky the last games were the best games ever in Olympic history."

The 80-year-old Spaniard still has 9 1/2 months to go before he hands over to his successor at the IOC session in Moscow in July.

"Until the last day, until the last minute, I will work as the full president, executive president," he said.

Samaranch said he expects there will be a maximum of three candidates.

The two top contenders are considered to be Jacques Rogge, the IOC executive from Belgium who oversaw the Sydney Games; and Canada's Dick Pound, who negotiates Olympic television rights and heads the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Other possible candidates include Australian IOC vice president Kevan Gosper and South Korean executive board member Kim Un-yong.

Samaranch had disappointed Atlanta in 1996 when he described the Centennial Games only as "most exceptional." But he gave Sydney and Australia the ultimate accolade at Sunday night's closing ceremony.

"These are my last games as IOC president," he said. "They could not have been better. Therefore, I am proud and happy to proclaim that you have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever."

Samaranch said Sydney met the two main conditions he always sets for the success of the games: superior organization and great performances by the home team. Australia won a national record 58 medals.

"It's incredible, the fourth country in the medal table, a country of 19 million people," he said. "I think it's something that helped a lot the success of the games."

At the opening ceremony two weeks ago, Samaranch received a call advising him that his wife of 45 years, Maria Teresa, was gravely ill in Barcelona, Spain. He flew home the next morning, but she died before he arrived.

Samaranch returned to Sydney a few days later for the remainder of the games, all the while keeping his emotions to himself.

"It's very personal for me," he said Monday. "If I have to cry, I cry."

These games were crucial for Samaranch and the IOC to rub off the lingering stains caused by the bribery scandal centering on Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Ten IOC members were ousted for receiving cash, gifts and other favors.

"Thanks to these games, I think in this moment the IOC and the Olympic Games have more prestige than before the crisis," Samaranch said.

He cited the induction of eight athletes as IOC members, including Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka's election to the ruling executive board, as a defining moment in the IOC's reform process.

"It means the reforms of the IOC are not only words, they are facts," Samaranch said.

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Secondary School Teachers in Ipswich

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...

Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Qualified and/or experienced te...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories