Prince Albert of Monaco and IOC Coordination Commission chairman Denis Oswald toured the velodrome at the main Olympic complex (OAKA) on Wednesday, a venue ”under the microscope” this week when its new state-of-the-art roof was slowly slid into place over the track and stands – a delicate maneuver touted by many as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the nearby Olympic stadium. Oswald, who heads the IOC body overseeing progress for the 2004 Games, stressed that last Saturday the metal-and-glass roof over the velodrome was 132 meters farther than where it is today.
” I was informed on Sunday that the roof had slid into place over the velodrome,” he said, before praising work crews and engineers.
The Swiss national also expressed a markedly optimistic view on Wednesday, citing what he called a series of positive developments over the past four to five weeks; as opposed to problems in February with the classical Marathon route and the roof over the Olympic Aquatic Centre.
The latter project was scrapped two weeks by the new Karamanlis government, following consultations with Athens organisers (ATHOC) and the International Olympic Committee, after it was judged that it could not be ready before the Games begin on Aug. 13. Moreover, he referred to a very positive period and significant progress on various projects.
”I am confident Athens will host very good Games,” Oswald stressed. Additionally, he said nary a doubt remains about Greece’s readiness to host the 2004 Olympics, whereas the way in which challenges and obstacles are being met of late is an encouraging sign for the OAKA roof as well.
Delayed work on the OAKA roof, a ”signature project” that is the brainchild of noted Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, has been a constant headache for ATHOC and the IOC for almost two years.
The main Olympic stadium will be at the heart of the 2004 Games, as it will host the popular athletics events as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Finally, Oswald said the heads of international sports federations have all expressed satisfaction with the venues that will host their competitions, with only minor modifications to be recommended.
On his part, Prince Albert praised the new roof over the velodrome, while noting that he is anxiously looking forward to the Aug. 13 Opening Ceremony.
Oswald and FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou on Thursday appeared entirely satisfied with the progress of on-going construction works at the Karaiskaki stadium in coastal Athens (Faliro district), a venue that will host a large portion of the soccer competition during the upcoming Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
The new venue, located at the site of the old Karaiskaki Stadium, will host the men’s soccer semi-finals and the women’s soccer finals, as well as the quarterfinals round.
According to representatives of the construction firm overseeing the project, the installation of tiles and components comprising the new stadium’s roof will be completed by June 5 – an addition that was not part of the contract. Moreover, transformation of the pitch will begin on April 10; with grass to be planted on June 1, roughly two months before the Games commence on Aug. 13.
In terms of security, a total of 65 cameras will be in operation in various parts of the new stadium, which will serve as the home field of the Olympiakos Piraeus soccer club in the future.
Olympiakos, led by local IT and Telecoms tycoon Socrates Kokkalis, is financing the construction and will assume the venue’s management after the 2004 Games.
Oswald, a day after he heaped praise on the new state-of-the-art roof over the Olympic velodrome, repeatedly used the words ”wonderful” and ”beautiful” to describe the venue, four months after his last visit to the site.
He also praised the construction firm, IntraDevelopment, for its work so far. Moreover, the Swiss IOC executive ranked the other venues hosting the football tournament – in Thessaloniki, Volos and Irakleio – as ”first-class.” Along with Hayatou, Oswald attended Wednesday evening’s friendly match between the Greek national team and an opposing Swiss side at the new Pankritio Stadium of Irakleio (1-0) – the first game ever hosted at the new stadium.
Cameroon’s Hayatou also expressed his satisfaction with the rate of progress at Karaiskaki, citing a ”perfect stadium” in terms of aesthetics and facilities, as well as the fact that it would be ready.
Athens 2004’s head of the football competition, Patrick Komninos, as well as Olympiakos club vice-president Petros Kokkalis accompanied both men.