Originally created 05/10/04

Workers prepare to put roof arches in place at Olympic stadium



ATHENS, Greece -- Workers dismantled support towers on sections of a delayed steel-and-glass roof at the main Olympic stadium Sunday in preparation for rolling the arches into place during a visit by International Olympic Committee inspectors.

The complicated process of moving half of the 17,000-ton roof could begin early Monday to coincide with the IOC arrival, said an Olympic organizing official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Engineers hope to move the two arches more than 90 feet along a specially designed track.

Organizers are under pressure to start the process during the three-day IOC visit or risk having the project suspended - leaving the embarrassing spectacle of a partially finished roof for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics.

The government has promised the venue - with the roof intact - would be finished by the end of June to allow time for test events and technical work for the games.

Denis Oswald, the chief IOC overseer of Athens, is expected in Athens on Monday as part of the last major inspection of the troubled preparations, which include other unfinished venues, behind-schedule transport links and seriously delayed efforts to upgrade the marathon route from the ancient village that gives the race its name.

The stadium roof, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is intended to help shield the 75,000-seat stadium from the blazing summer sun.

Another Calatrava project, a 4,000-ton roof for the nearby 5,000-seat velodrome, was pushed into place on March 29 in a similar maneuver. The stadium complex is also the site of the tennis center, a gymnastics and basketball arena and an aquatic center.