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26 August, 2000
Visiting International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates said they were withdrawing the IOC's "yellow card" to Greece on Friday, saying that it had gained momentum and was back on track for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. They warned, however, that this was no time to idle.
"We must not add pages to the calendar. Time is passing swiftly," said IOC coordinating commission president Jacques Rogge, who headed the delegation, adding that organisers faced a "marathon that must be run at sprinting speed."
Rogge said that the basic elements of the preparations had been set up on firm foundations, noting the personal interest shown by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the now excellent relations between the government and the organising committee.
Rogge also expressed satisfaction over the progress made on the question of hospitality and the agreement signed with hoteliers. "In May the agreement with hoteliers had not been signed. This has been done now and covers 65 per cent of the bookings," he said.
Regarding the 14 projects taken over by the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry, Rogge said he was pleased with the progress being made, while noting that they would leave a useful legacy to the city of Athens after the 2004 Olympics. With respect to the construction of five sports installations, which the ministry has taken over, Rogge said the May 2004 deadline was too late. "These works must be ready much earlier, so that some test events can take place."
He said that Environment Minister Costas Laliotis had stressed that the schedules would be speeded up and that the deadlines for the works being carried out by the General Secretariat for Sports would be re-examined.
Environmental groups hoping for IOC support in their efforts to block the construction of a canoeing and rowing center in Schinias, some 50 km northeast of Athens, were disappointed, however. Rogge said that while the IOC was very interested in the environment, it was satisfied with the assurances of the Greek government and that the IOC had approved the plan, which he said would "be a good legacy for Greece." Environmental groups insist, however, that the works will degrade the Schinias wetlands and that the IOC bears great responsibility for covering up such damaging constructions.
Source: Athens News Agency