Rogge Maintains Confidence
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge on Saturday said there is still time enough for Greek officials to finish construction projects, assess security concerns, implement transportation plans and deliver good Summer Games, which he defined as “secure Games in a peaceful environment.”
Saying he is concerned with those and other issues before each edition of the Games, and no more alarmed before the Athens Olympics than any other, Rogge declared, “I remain confident, and I’ve expressed my confidence. It’s going to be a challenge. But it is feasible.”
Rogge’s comments came in perhaps the primary pre-Games review by Olympic authorities, the Aug. 13 opening ceremony only 166 days away in a city cluttered with construction cranes. The roof over Olympic Stadium -- not done. The roof over the swimming pool -- not done. The tramway to venues south of the city -- not done. And so on.
“There is still enough time to have excellent Games,” Rogge said, “providing our Greek friends continue at the fast pace.”
Rogge’s remarks came after he said Tuesday, in opening an assembly of the more than 200-member Assn. of National Olympic Committees, that he wanted to “reiterate once more in public the confidence the IOC has in our [Greek] friends” to deliver “very high-caliber Games.”
On Friday, however, in closing those meetings, after delegates had taken tours of the unfinished works, he seemed to sound a different tone. Answering a question, he said, “If the Athens Games run smoothly and, I repeat, if they run smoothly.”
Asked Saturday if his expectations for the 2004 Games had lowered and if he still had confidence the Athens Olympics would be a success, he said no to the former, yes to the latter. He rejected any suggestion of inconsistency in his remarks.
“I’ve always said very clearly that the successful staging of the Games remains feasible providing [Greek officials are] working at the same pace,” Rogge said.
Greek officials lost three years to delay after being awarded the Games in 1997. Since then, the pace has picked up -- with the government, responsible here for overseeing construction of public works, admittedly racing the clock.
Greek authorities have since said many times that all the work -- 39 Games-related construction projects -- will be done in time. As of now, 15 are finished. But 12 others are at least 90% done. And the contract for the swimming pool roof, Rogge said, is due to be signed Monday.
The site now attracting the most concern is the roof over Olympic Stadium, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava with the aim of being the showcase of the Games and of a modern Greece. The stagecraft of the opening ceremony is keyed to the roof.
Calatrava sent the IOC a letter last week saying it would be finished in time.
But Rogge said, “I’m interested in core delivery of the Games. If we have the stadium without the roof, but it still functions well, I’m perfectly happy. We have always said the roof is nice; it would be added value. But it is not absolutely needed.”
Rogge also addressed security concerns. Greek officials have budgeted 650 million euros, about $820 million, for the Games, three times the security tab for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.
“Does this mean there is zero risk? No one can guarantee zero risk,” Rogge said. “What you can guarantee is that every measure ... has been taken.”
The U.S. and several other nations are advising Greek authorities. U.S. authorities are keenly monitoring anti-American sentiment in Athens.
Two government trucks were firebombed earlier in the week in the Athens area; the group claiming responsibility said the incident was timed to coincide with the visit here by Rogge and other Olympic authorities.
”... The security forces have taken everything -- I insist on the word ‘everything’ -- into account,” Rogge said in response to a question about local anarchists, a recurring feature of life in Athens. “That is both inland and foreign. So all the threats have been analyzed.”
The IOC’s ruling executive board, meanwhile, took action Saturday in a number of areas. Among them:
* In a case perhaps laden with implications for the gold medal-winning U.S. men’s 1,600-meter relay team in 2000, the board affirmed an arbitration decision and stripped three gold medals from two cross-country skiers who tested positive for the banned synthetic hormone darbopetin at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
The IOC removed the remaining medals won by German-born Johann Muehlegg of Spain and Olga Danilova of Russia. He had previously lost one of three gold medals and loses the other two; she loses one gold and one silver.
The U.S. relay team included Jerome Young, who competed in Sydney after a positive test in 1999 for the banned steroid nandrolone. An arbitration hearing in that case is forthcoming.
* The board postponed a ruling on whether to admit transsexual athletes into the Games. Women on the IOC’s athletes’ commission were vocal in opposition, according to the chair of the commission, IOC member Sergei Bubka, the pole vault champion from Ukraine.
“They were afraid that if some men change gender, it [might] give