Originally created 04/08/04

Greek premier 'guarantees' safe Olympics

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece's prime minister promised a safe and successful Olympics despite "choking deadlines" in construction and admissions of delays in security preparations at two key sites.

"Not a single hour can be wasted," Premier Costas Caramanlis said in a magazine issued Wednesday by organizers of the Aug. 13-29 Games. "Everyone knows that four months before the Olympic Games we are facing choking deadlines."

He added: "I want to be clear, our main concern and highest priority in Olympic preparations is to secure the complete safety of the country, of athletes and visitors ... Greece will guarantee safe games."

Caramanlis took personal charge of troubled Olympic preparations after his conservative party won general elections a month ago, ending 11 years of Socialist government. His priorities are to overcome urgent delays in vital Olympic projects - including the main stadium and marathon route - and security.

Greece is spending more $800 million to mount massive policing at the games, is receiving assistance from the United States and six other countries, and is seeking the active support of NATO.

Ministers involved with security said preparations have fallen behind at two major sites, the Olympic Village and Athens' main port of Piraeus, but refused to give details and insisted everything will ready by August.

"Time is pressing us ... we have noted delays," said Christos Markoyiannakis, the deputy public order minister, who inspected the Olympic Village and facilities that will house some of the 50,000 security personnel.

The remarks were echoed by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, in charge of security at Piraeus which will host at least eight cruise ships with some 13,000 visitors and officials.

"There were delays in security but all necessary measures will be taken," Kefaloyiannis said. "All the cruise ships will dock here, and as you understand they are targets for a possible terrorist attack."


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