Tracks but no trains? Welcome to Athens

Tuesday, February 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The IOC's top official in Athens had plenty to say about preparations for the 2004 Games, and it wasn't pretty.

Denis Oswald, in charge of the International Olympic Committee's review of Athens' beleaguered plans, said while progress had been made, there's still a lot of work to do.

Among Oswald's observations in a report Monday to the IOC general assembly:

_ Train tracks without trains. While the rails themselves could be ready for the games on a new commuter line, it might be too late to buy the rail cars themselves.

_ Planes still landing and departing from the old Athens airport, where construction on Olympic arenas is supposed to be under way.

_ Almost 3,000 missing hotel rooms in a city notoriously short of modern accommodations

``We have a pretty hard task,'' Oswald said. ``We have to work very hard and exert constant pressure. We must praise what is done, but we can't allow them to rest on their laurels.''

The chief of the Athens organizing committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, was more optimistic. But even she conceded her committee and the Greek government had run out of spare time.

``Today, we are more confident that we were before,'' she said. ``We have achieved a good cruising speed and are accelerating. But we are aware that time is short.

``We Greeks like to wait until the last minute. We know the last minute is now.''

Athens has been warned by the IOC repeatedly that it is well behind schedule. Last month, Oswald said he was pleased with organizers' progress but distressed over government efforts in transportation and accommodations.

Besides the issues with trains, planes and hotel rooms, Oswald's list included construction delays at two other sites, including the area where the main Olympic stadium and the swimming hall will stand. Even the organizers' construction charts were full of completion percentages in the single digits.

IOC president Jacques Rogge wished Athens organizers good luck.

``Your task is not easy. You can't lose time,'' Rogge said. ``We believe that if everything you say today is realized, you can have great games.''

Earlier Monday, the IOC _ still recovering from the Salt Lake City corruption scandal _ spent 45 minutes arguing that new conflict-of-interest rules would create headaches with investigations and paperwork, and needed more study before they took effect.

``My reaction is that it goes much farther than members would want to go,'' Britain's Craig Reedie said.

Dick Pound of Canada, who led the IOC investigation of the Salt Lake City scandal, said the rules were ``a wonderful start'' but contained ``a built-in series of conflicts'' for members who also represent sports federations and national Olympic committees.

One member questioned why the IOC, a group criticized internationally for taking advantage of any loophole, needed ethics rules at all.

``I'm disappointed that we have so little confidence in ourselves that we need an ethics commission to tell us how to act,'' New Zealand's Tay Wilson said.

Rogge, running his first assembly as IOC president, and ethics commission chairman Keba M'Baye agreed to withdraw the rules, adopted Saturday by the policy-making executive board.

Instead, Rogge told members to submit proposed changes to the ethics commission for a revised code, to be considered at a special meeting on reforms in Mexico City in November. He called a conflict-of-interest code a ``logical progression'' from recent IOC rules changes.

The IOC has long had informal rules against conflicts of interest, but they were never on the books.

The new rules would have required all IOC members and staff, along with counterparts in most other Olympic agencies, to file lists with the ethics commission of potential conflicts of interest.

Members found to have conflicts of interest they did not reveal would have faced penalties ranging from reprimand to suspension.