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14 January, 2003
The year 2003 would be the most critical in preparing for the Athens Olympics in 2004, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Monday after a meeting of the government committee for Olympics preparations.
The premier additionally stressed the ''Greece 2004'' program, through which the government showed hope that the Olympics were an affair that concerned the entire country, not just the capital.
Simitis praised the Olympics Organizing Committee (ATHOC) for the good results achieved in 2002 and noted that the majority of Olympics-related infrastructure projects - with 235 currently in progress throughout Greece - would be completed over the coming year, as well as other programs such as the Cultural Olympiad, Olympic Education, hospitality, green spaces, security and others.
The premier particularly emphasized the Olympics budget, asking all involved to keep to it religiously so that it did not exceed 1.5 trillion drachmas ($4.5b) as decided the previous year.
Additionally, he stressed that time was extremely short and there was no room for complacency.
Simitis asked the ministers to submit updated action plans for 2003 to the Olympic Games General Secretariat over the coming weeks and referred to legal problems that had delayed Olympics preparations from suits filed by private citizens against Olympics works.
The ''Greece 2004'' program was also described in detail by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose ministry is in charge of coordinating preparations for the Games, as he emerged from the meeting.
He said the budget for the program came to 1.26 billion euros and was expected to increase regional GDP during 2004 from 0.3 per cent to 0.9 per cent.
PM Simitis holds talks with IOC President Rogge in Athens: Prime Minister Costas Simitis met International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge at the Maximos Mansion in Athens on Monday.
Also present at the meeting were IOC Coordinating Committee President Denis Oswald, the general director of the IOC's technical section, Gilbert Felli, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.
As stated by Venizelos after the meeting, Rogge and Oswald were particularly satisfied by Monday night's meeting because, as Rogge characteristically said, there were more solutions and fewer problems.
Rogge and Oswald asked questions concerning the work being carried out at the Olympic Stadium and at the international zone of the Olympic Village and received immediate replies, the culture minister said.
Also raised at Monday's meeting were issues concerning the Schengen Treaty, which is also of interest to Italy which will host the Winter Olympic Games in 2006.
Issues related to employment and the legal framework of the foreign employees during the 2004 Games, particularly those who will be employed in the radio and television media, was also discussed.
With regard to Karaiskaki Soccer Stadium in Piraeus, Venizelos said that in a meeting he had in the afternoon with the board of Olympiakos soccer club, it was noted that everything was going smoothly and that the relevant bill will be passed by the Greek Parliament.
Venizelos added that if the reconstruction of the stadium begins on February 15, 2003, the stadium will be ready for Olympic use on May 31, 2004.
Source: Athens News Agency