Press Conference of the ATHENS 2004 President and the IOC President to the Foreign Press Association of Greece Athens 14 January 2003):
MR E ANTONAROS: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, dear guests, dear colleagues, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you today on behalf of the Board of the Foreign Press Correspondent’s Association. Allow me to say that this is sort of a probation today for us journalists with this multifaceted event and in fact the results of the first event of this year.
The year 2002 was ended with a very important press conference by the Prime Minister, Mr Simitis after Copenhagen, after the Copenhagen summit, and we start this year with a very distinguished personality, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Dr Jacques Rogge, and also the ATHENS 2004 President, Mrs Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.
As you can also see, I have the pleasure of being accompanied by the other members of our Board. For example, member, Mr Denis Oswald, among others. He is very well known in Greece after several visits. We also have with us the President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Mr Lambis Nikolaou and other Greek “immortals” as we call them, and Mr Nikos Filaretos.
Allow me to welcome you all to today’s event.
As you know, I am usually very brief when it comes to describing distinguished personalities. Dr Rogge is a very distinguished personality, who started as an athlete. He was present at very important athletic events. He has been present in the International Olympic Committee for many, many years, which actually led him, I would say, one year and a half ago, to the position of the President of the IOC. Although I am not a specialist in athletic affairs, I hear that Dr Rogge intonates a new vision and has provided a new impetus to the IOC.
We, Greeks, that are organising the Olympic Games of 2004, I believe, will feel this new vision, this new approach during the next two and a half years. That will be characterised by this Olympic preparation.
Allow me also to inform you that Dr Rogge will start with a short introductory presentation and as it is the custom of such events, our Association, our colleagues from Greece and abroad have the right to ask questions. There are microphones in the centre of this room, so please use the microphone in order to ask your questions. Of course, there is interpretation to and from French and English.
As usual, the subjects for today will be limited to the Olympic Games and the Olympic preparations. You will not be disappointed. These two subjects are huge already and time will prove limited once again and I am afraid it will be once again unpleasant to several of our colleagues. Dr Rogge, please, you have the floor.
Dr J ROGGE: Mr President, Madam President, IOC colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege for me to address you today. My last visitto Athens in my capacity as Chairman of the Coordination Commission was in May 2001, over 18 months ago. I had the opportunity yesterday and today to look at the preparation and I am glad to tell you that the progress is outstanding and evident.
When I was here in May 2001, we were in the phase of the bulldozers and the ground works. Now, we see the construction really emerging out of all the different places. And the organisation, both at the level of ATHOC where there is an enthusiastic and very competent team and also at the level of the Government with very dedicated ministers and civil servants, we see a great momentum. Of course, the deadlines are tight. There is something unique in the Olympic Games and that is that you never change the date and the hour of the Opening Ceremony. 13th August at eight o’clock in the evening, the Games will begin and nothing will change that.
If you want to launch a space shuttle, you can delay for a day, for a week, for a month. Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki does not have that luxury, and therefore we have of course to respect the deadlines. They are tight but we have seen that they are feasible, they are reasonable, they are credible, but no time can be lost.
I am very hopeful for the success of the Games but there is another factor that is also very important. The Games are far more than just the effort of an organising committee and the support of the Government. It is, and it must be, the whole effort of a nation. The Games are far bigger than a city and the city of Athens. The Games are the Games of Greece and the Games will be a success if all the Greeks in all their different capacities are united and work together for the success of these Games.
I am delighted to say today that the Games will leave a long-lasting and excellent legacy for Greece. The infrastructure you are putting in place, the expertise that will be acquired by the Games, the city that will be totally changed, is something you will benefit from for decades. The Games do not stop by the Closing Ceremony. There is a tremendous legacy for the athletes and for sport of course. Greek sport will be far stronger after the Games than before. But there is a great legacy for the nation, for the country, in terms of international awareness, in terms of international admiration, in terms also of expertise you can build in various fields. In terms, definitely also of urban development and general development, not only of Athens but of Attica and of Greece.
And Greece will give also a great legacy to the Olympic Movement and to the world. It is not only the Games bringing good to Greece, it is Greece that is going to bring good for the world.
By organising the Games we show true love for sport, true love for the Olympic Games which you have invented three thousand years ago. You will give to these Games a new dimension and I am sure it will be a more human dimension. There will be a unique association between culture and sport, between history and sports and you will strengthen the Olympic Games, and definitely I know that these will be Games that are not only perfectly organised but they will be an added value, an extra dimension of culture, history but also ethical values and let’s hope that we will have these Games in peaceful surroundings.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will not be much longer but I wanted to express the sincere thanks of the International Olympic Committee for the great effort of the Greeks and in particular, of course, for the President of ATHOC, but also to the Prime Minister and the whole Government and all the segments of the Greek population that help us. Thank you very much.
Mr E ANTONAROS: Thank you, Mr President. Thank you, Dr Rogge. I have confirmed once again what I had already heard, that Dr Rogge, in not too many words, can summarise what he wants to say.
Thus we have the opportunity to take questions now. Most of these will be answered byDr Rogge, but of course you can address your questions also to Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, in her capacity as President of ATHENS 2004. Could we hear the first question from Mr Croman from Reuters, please?
MR CROMAN (“REUTERS”): A question for President Rogge. The last time you were here was in July last year, and you noted that there was considerable progress made and that there were still certain issues to be resolved. How confident are you that these issues will be resolved, and I am talking about the Olympic Stadium, the construction there, the final of the soccer championship and several other still outstanding issues. Thank you.
DR J ROGGE: Well, basically I am confident that everything will be finalised in due time. I said clearly that no delays can be permitted, because otherwise the organisation will run into trouble.
On the specific issue of the Stadium completion and the football finals, I’d like to give the floor to my successor, as Chairman of the Coordination Commission, my good friend, Denis Oswald.
MR D OSWALD: Regarding the Olympic complex at OAKA, it’s an ambitious project, of course, but we have checked all the details of this project. The final decision regarding the roof will be made in April, but all indications we have show that this should be completed on time, and would leave a very strong legacy to the city.
Regarding the football final, it’s not just the final game. It’s the tournament, the part of the Olympic tournament which is going to take place in Athens. We need a good Stadium, and we are very pleased that an agreement was found between the different parties involved, in order to refurbish or rebuild the Karaiskakis Stadium.
Again, like for most of the projects, time is short. Maybe you cannot see it, but I have received a pin saying “Nineteen months to go”. And we are all aware of this time constraint, but this is technically feasible, and again we are confident that this will be achieved on time.
We have had very good news in the course of this visit, including the fact that the contract regarding the suburban train was signed, and it is confirmed that all the rolling stock will be delivered on time. So there is a lot of good news and good progress.
MR DRAKOS (“ELEFTHEROTIPIA”): Mr President, the cost of the Olympic Games for 2004 has been increasing, very much so. And there is a black hole: GRD450 billion, which means that the total cost will be GRD2 trillion. So I would like to ask you which of the two alternatives that I am going to mention right now is a greater fear for you, for instance the first one being that if the budget goes way above what is expected, what would that mean for the cities that want to organise Olympic Games after Athens? In other words, would it be prohibitive for the Olympic Games’ organisation?
The second thing is if the budget were going to be cut down, are you not afraid that in Athens in 2004 we will met the standards if such cuts were to be brought to the budget of the Olympic Games? Thank you.
DR J ROGGE: You have raised a very interesting question, that indicates that there is confusion in the general public about what the Olympic budget is.
You have to distinguish two different budgets. You have on the one hand the operational budget of the Organising Committee that is to pay for everything it takes to organise the sport events – the judges, the referees, the transportation, the security, accommodation, catering, name it. That is just to make the Games run for the one month period when the athletes come to the Olympic Village and then leave.
That budget is set at US$1,962,000,000, or euro – I’m sorry. The IOC is counting in dollars and ATHOC in euro, almost the same.
So EUR1,900,000,000. That is what the staging of the Games will cost. But that budget is totally revenue-based. It is not going to cost one drachma or one eurocent to the Greek citizens, because it is a budget that is furthered first by donation of the International Olympic Committee. A little under one billion is given by the International Olympic Committee to ATHOC, and that is the share of the TV rights of the International Olympic Committee. The rest is funded by local sponsorship, by international sponsorship, by ticket sales. So it’s not going to cost anything to the Government or to the taxpayers.
Besides that, you have the other part. That is what the Government has to pay to build the construction, to refurbish the Stadium, to build the new constructions, but also the roadworks, also telecommunication equipment. And these are things that do not cease to exist after the Closing Ceremony. These are things that you will benefit from for decades, for generations. Athens will be a new city.
So therefore let’s please distinguish the two, and do not amalgamate and add the first budget to the second one.
History has taught us that the Olympic Games are a great legacy for a city. Of course you have to invest. The Olympic Games are an acceleration of this investment. People who knew Athens before the Games and will see Athens after the Games will not recognise the city. You have all kinds of infrastructure that is not related to the Olympic Games that is contained in this budget which you have cited and quoted.
To respond to your second question, what will this be for the future, well, the International Olympic Committee is insisting that the operational costs will not augment, and on the contrary we are trying to keep them contained, and this is something that has been very successful here in Athens, because the operational cost on Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki’s’ budget is exactly on the same line as in Atlanta 1996 and in Sydney 2000.
As for the other budget of the general infrastructure, if you start from a city that has already a lot of infrastructure – take Atlanta: it had a modern airport, it had very good communication means, it had everything it needed in terms of telecommunication – they did not have to spend much because everything was in place. They did not have to construct much; only the Olympic Stadium was constructed; all the rest was in place. Of course that budget is not high.
If you start from a situation where not very much is in place, then you have to pay more, and Barcelona is a perfect example of that. And ask all the Spaniards today: they are extremely happy about the Olympic Games. It gives them a great legacy.
MS L ORKIN (“ASSOCIATED PRESS”): As the future of Olympic Airways is still in doubt, what does the IOC feel would be the impact on the Games if there were no national carrier in Greece during the 2004 Olympic Games?
DR J ROGGE: Well, this would not be definitely the first time that there is no Olympic carrier. We have had this in previous Games, and definitely for the Lillehammer Games in Norway there was no national carrier. I wish Olympic Airways the best, of course, but it is not going to affect the situation of the inflow and outflow of athletes and tourists and travellers.
Ms L IOANNOU (“ANTENNA”): A question to Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. Something that is not directly linked to the Olympic Games, but it has to do, generally speaking, with security in Greece. Could you enlighten us, especially in the light of recent reality related to terrorism in Greece, the note written by Mr Angelopoulos? Could you comment on that, please?
Mrs G. ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: Greece is preparing for the Olympic Games, and we all know the volume of the effort required of all of us, to be ready in time. And not just that: we want to show how good we can be. This means that we are preparing in all possible fields, including security.
In the field of security, we have made a tremendous effort. Of course, this is a global issue; it is a global nuisance and concern, if you will. And of course we are not relaxed at all, because we want to show a different Greece, a country that will be comfortable to visit, not a military camp. On the contrary. But I assure you that everyone will feel comfortable during the Olympic Games.
With regard to the first part of your question, I won't answer. Thank you.
Mr J PSAROPOULOS (“PTR”): Mrs. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the contract for the security management of the Games was supposed to be signed in September. Since then, it has been mired in the Defence Ministry. I would like to ask whether you have spoken with the Defence Minister on this matter and when do you estimate that this contract will be signed, because the contenders had said that 24 months were absolutely necessary. Thank you.
Mrs G ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: Yes, you are absolutely right. This particular contract has not been signed. There is a time lag here and it is very crucial that is signed as soon as possible because for us, looking at the progress made day by day, we are just at the point where we are really at the brink of fitting everything in.
So in order to have the infrastructure, in order to put everything in place, in order to implement everything, we have the phase of putting the infrastructure in and organising and implementing everything.
But for us, the Organising Committee and the International Olympic Committee know that well, the important phase is not all the previous phases of operations, preliminary activities, implementation and so on. It is the testing period.
So, therefore, the C4Is must be tested and they will be tested for the first time. The C4Is are going to be the legacy, a great legacy that is going to be in our country or stay in our country after the Olympic Games.
So in terms of security, we are going to be in a totally different sphere, if you will. The same goes for the traffic management centre. For the first time, we are going to have for the whole of Attica one centre in order to manage all of the mass transport systems by one centre.
The Prime Minister has given us instructions that this particular contract be signed as soon as possible so that we have the infrastructure in place, implemented, tested and have the human factor involved, because it is actually the human resources, the people that are going to manage and run this centre, the most important part of everything to do with particular aspect. Thank you.
Mr KOTROTSOS: On this issue, I would like again to give the floor to Mr Oswald, who raised this question to the Prime Minister at the meeting we had yesterday. Mr Oswald.
Mr D OSWALD: Yes, we raised the point because it is also a concern for us. We are aware that time is needed and that everything has to be tested and the Prime Minister gave us assurance that this contract will be signed very, very soon, in the coming weeks.
Mr TROUPIS (“ERT”): A question for the President, Dr Rogge. In 2004, it seems that we will have national elections in Greece. Do you believe that the electoral period, just before the 2004 Games, and an eventual change of government will have an impact on the Olympic Games?
Dr J ROGGE: The preparation of the Olympic Games always is spread over a period of seven years. And in all democratic countries in seven years’ time you have many elections. So we are used to that. It is not the first time. And we have seen many changes in governments throughout the history of the organisation of the Olympic Games.
We have always found a bipartisan approach. Three years ago, in my capacity of Chairman of the Coordination Commission, I made a tour of all the political parties in Greece and pleaded for a bipartisan approach and I had very good responses.
I have discussed, of course, the support of the Government with the Prime Minister yesterday. Tomorrow I will meet with Mr Karamanlis and this is a habit of the IOC, always to speak to government and opposition. I am quite sure that all the Greeks will unite around the Games because this is a must. If you do not unite, then the Games will be in danger.
But the experience I have from previous Games is that the Games are too important to be the subject or the object of political quarrels and discussions. This is something for all the Greeks, this is something of a national cause and I am quite sure that a potential or an eventual change in government will not in any way diminish the support that ATHOC deserves and the resolve of all the Greeks.
Ms S SOUFLA (“HELSINKI SANAMAT” NEWSPAPER): A question for Dr Rogge. Do you believe that the Olympic Games, the card of the Olympic Games are organised in Athens, which is the cultural Olympiad of Athens, which is the extra thing, have been focused on sufficiently? Thank you.
Dr J ROGGE: Yes, definitely. We are very pleased by the cultural programme of ATHOC and also by the cultural Olympiad launched by the Ministry of Culture. And if there is one country where that is going to be a highlight, it is definitely Greece because Greece is a country of culture and a country of sport and a country of Olympism.
And as I said in my introductory comments, this is a part of the added value that you are going to be able to give to the Games. The Olympic Games are far more than just a sports competition. The Olympic Games, as I said, are also a great legacy for the city and the country for generations.
And the Olympic Games, beyond the logistics and the organisation that we need to stage them well, have always a special flavour, always a special identity. I am quite sure that you will be able to give a unique and superb identity to these Games by this association between culture and sport.
Mr G SMYRNIS (“ALPHA TV”): A question to President Rogge. You flew in a helicopter over certain works. Did you notice anything problematic, traffic problems for example? This is very difficult to cope with during the Olympic Games. Are you not concerned with traffic during the Olympic Games? Can everyone take the subway?
Dr J ROGGE: Transportation and traffic are always a difficult issue during the Olympic Games. As I said again, the Olympic Games mostly generate infrastructure and investment that improve the situation. But there are facts and figures that we cannot avoid, that the Olympic Games will mean the influx of probably between 500,000 and one million visitors, which will contribute to your economy and tourism. But definitely they want to go to the stadium.
There are something in the order of 900 sports sessions during the Games, at least 900 individual competitions with qualifications, semi-finals and so on. That means that you need to bring people in and to take them out.
So it is never easy, but our experts have studied the plans put in place by ATHOC and the Government and they are adamant that it will be feasible on one condition and that is that all the Greeks and also the tourists and the foreigners who will come understand that they have as much as possible to take public transport, and not all want to go with their own private cars to the venues.
This is the message that we have repeated in Sydney and in Barcelona and it went well. So in the lead-up to the Games, of course, we know that cities experience for a temporary period more difficulties because you have to build new roads, because you have to build new bridges. You are coming at the end of this phase, but I believe that you will be rewarded again for generations with a far better traffic, with the Metro, with the tramway, with the suburban rail, with Attiki Odos. This is a great legacy for your city.
JOURNALIST: Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, what are your views on Cypriots participating in the volunteer programmes?
Mrs G ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: About 54,000 persons have declared themselves ready to become volunteers during the Olympic Games. I am very proud that I too am a volunteer. Among those 54,000 persons, then, a very substantial part is taken by Cypriot citizens. We have included Cyprus in our tour that we made to inform the citizens on volunteering, on voluntarism during the Olympic Games and I am sure that you are proud of being a Cypriot as well. Mr Kraloglou?
Mr KRALOGLOU: Mr Chairman, I would like for you to compare the Greek preparations with the previous cities, for instance Sydney, which is considered a successful organisation. Eighteen months before the Games, if you compare Sydney, what applies 18 months before the Games and our position here 18 months before the Games. How do you compare this?
Dr J ROGGE: Well it is very difficult to compare globally because the organisation of the Games is about maybe 60 or 70 different sites. Transport, accommodation, infrastructure, security, you name it. I would say that on the most visible part there is no difference today between Sydney and Athens in terms of being 18 months or 19 months out of the Games.
The Olympic Village here in Athens is ahead of what was the case in Sydney but the renovation of the stadium will mean that the stadium is ready later than the Sydney stadium but the stadium exists already. So on the invisible part which does not show but will be revealed at the Games, and that is the quality of the people running the Games, the interaction between the professionals of ATHOC, the volunteers, the civil servants and the services rendered by Government, the experts and the technicians and the judges of the Sports Federations. That is something that will be built by the Test Events and the first Test Event was a very good one, in Sailing. So we are confident.
You know, the organisation of the Games is always a difficult issue and I think if I can describe the organisation of the Athens Games, I would describe it as a piece of music, like syrtaki. It starts very slowly, it accelerates all the time and by the end, you can’t follow the pace.
Ms M TOPALOVA: A question for Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and one question for Dr Rogge. For Mrs. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, could we expect an agreement between Bulgaria and Greece for volunteers for the Olympic Games and for how many? And for Dr Rogge, what are the chances about Bulgaria hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2014? Thank you.
Mrs G. ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: You know that there are many countries, through the National Olympic Committees that we work together to be prepared for the Games and this happens with Bulgaria as well and there is a cooperation and I know that they met also with the General Secretary of Sport and of course with the National Olympic Committee, and I have to say that if we have personal applications as we have already from many countries, we will be more than happy and we are very lucky, because there are already many, many foreigners; it’s a percentage around already 12 percent of the already 54,000 applications, personal applications up to now that they are foreigners who either live in Greece or they come from abroad because, as they explain, it is such a unique experience that they don’t want to miss it. Especially when the Games will come home to their home. Thank you.
Dr J ROGGE: As to your question about a potential candidacy of Bulgaria for 2014, you are the first one who expresses that, so that is a worldwide scoop and we still have no candidates for 2014 but I will put this evening Bulgaria on the list. Sofia was already a candidate in 1987 for the 1994 Games that were eventually then organised in Lillehammer and Sofia presented a very strong bid. It did not prevail until the end, but, and you know this far better than me, Sofia has this exceptional advantage of being a big city just at the foot of a mountain, and well, it’s up to our Bulgarian friends to see if they want to bid, but the potential is there.
JOURNALIST (ENGLISH PRESS): You mentioned that Greece would leave a great legacy for the world with its Olympic Games. Apart from a cultural Olympiad, which is quite a separate programme than the organisation of the Games themselves, could you speak on this question a little bit more specifically? Can you point to anything, for example, regarding the programmatic side of the Games themselves that might be considered genuinely new or innovative or otherwise be considered a model for future host cities or for the IOC? Thank you.
Dr J ROGGE: The Cultural Olympiad is of course of a unique quality and will add to the value of the Games and also the efforts that will be made by ATHOC itself, will definitely be of the highest quality and I think that will be a very important added value to the Games. When you speak about programmatic, I don’t know exactly if you are referring to the Olympic Sports Programme. If that is the case, it has been decided it will be exactly the same programme as for Sydney, so there, there is no change.
The Olympic Games are about some intangibles, things that you cannot specify, quantify. It’s about the atmosphere in the Olympic Village. It is about the kindness, the politeness and the warm support of the volunteers. It is about the quality of the professionals who have to run the Games. It is about the weather and the climate. It is always nicer to have the Games under the sun. It is about what people do and experience after the competition when they are in the city and ATHOC has great plans for the look of the Games and Athens will be a different city during the Games. So I believe that these intangibles will be there and be very important because they leave a special character that will be reminded.
Apart from that, each Games mark an evolution in far more tangible issues and we definitely are keen on continuing the effort that we have done already for Salt Lake City in stepping up the fight against doping. We want to test far more athletes. We want to be far more efficient in doping. We want also ethical values to be far more defended and you know that we had problems in Salt Lake City about that. So these are all things that we hope to realise through the Games in Athens and it is a nice place to do it because of your great love for the sport.
Mr D HODDEN (“REUTERS”): A question for Dr Rogge. Athens is one of the dirtiest and most polluted cities, certainly in Europe. You have talked a lot about Olympic legacy. With these marks, Athens Organising Committee one out of ten on environmental issues related to the Games, I wonder if you could give a comment about what kind of environmental legacy you think that the Athens Games will leave?
MR. J. ROGGE: Well, I would like to say that I have been extremely heartened by the comments of the Commissioner on Environment, Ms Walstrom when she came here and she is giving, I think, a report to ATHOC and the effort being made by ATHOC. ATHOC is one part of the solution. Of course, the Government has also its own responsibility. You cannot ask for ATHOC to solve all the problems of Athens. ATHOC has its responsibility in terms of an environment positive policy and the IOC is also very keen on that. Here are issues that have to be dealt with by the Government. Definitely, I believe that again, the Games will be an improvement.
Just for something that has nothing to do with the Games, but the more public transport you have with the tramway, suburban rail, with the Metro, the less pollution by emission that you are going to get and I could go on for many, many measures that have been taken because of the Games, not necessarily by ATHOC itself, that really in the long term contribute to a better environment and I could go on through the process of the hydrogen versus so on and so on, so it definitely leaves a good legacy. Whether it will satisfy totally the non-governmental organisations, that is another issue. The IOC and SOCOG received the bronze medal from Greenpeace in Sydney and we are very proud of that because Greenpeace never gave a medal before.
Let’s make a final assessment after the Games. I would not be surprised to have a good support by the NGOs too.
Mrs G ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: Please allow me to make two further remarks, because we were all very satisfied yesterday, all people that made this follow-up. And Gilbert Felli and Denis Oswald, and what’s happening in Athens, you know? Because of the Games, we make decisions that radically change the face of the city.
When Ms Walstrom came the other day, she accepted, because we were the team, Mr Pyrgiotis and the Vice Minister of the Environment, who visited her more than one and a half years ago. And we tried very hard to convince her that it’s something very good that is happening in Schinias. And we tried to prove that when you remove an old airport and a kind of military base, and you stop a motocross there, and you create a plan of reversing the wetlands there and bringing them to a better condition, and you save the forest because the construction will also have a kind of fire-preventing system there, and you allow because you diminish the pollution and all kind of busy schedule of this place, you allow the birds to come back and you create a kind of lake there, nobody can say that all this will not really reverse the kind of decadence that the whole place has suffered for years.
The same thing goes at New Faliron, the coastal zone area. It’s will be the first time after so many years that Athenians will have access to, apart from Piraeus (our national port, that will be a really a fantastic place, hosting the whole world there in 11 cruise ships), to a clean, very well-cared-for beach and a kind of promenade, as you know, very close to Athens.
And these are just some of the elements that I refer. And of course we work very hard with the environmentalists, and we have, allow me to say, maybe the same kind of sensitivity in keeping the environment clean, in creating a better place to live for everybody, thanks to the Games. Thanks to the Games, we make these decisions. What counts is the results.
Ms K CHRISTOPOULOU: A question for Dr Rogge,. Mr President, in 2003 a series of Test Events will take place in Greece. You have maintained, or rather the IOC has maintained, on several occasions that this will be the acid test. Many Greek commentators have said that if we are not ready, if the installations are not ready, then maybe the Test Events will have to take place in installations other than the ones projected for 2004. What do you think about that? Is that possible? Will the IOC allow Test Events to take place in installations other than the ones projected for 2004?
Dr J ROGGE: In Sydney, more than 50 per cent of the Test Events were organised in venues that were not the venues for the Games. The Test Event is about the human factor; it’s about the people, about human resources, about the integration of people of different groups. It’s about testing how government officials, sports officials, ATHOC officials, athletes, volunteers work together.
Here in Athens we will have more Test Events in final Olympic venues than we have had in Sydney, and Sydney were perfect Games.
So it’s not necessarily needed to be in the Olympic venue if the venue is either not finished or partially finished. It’s about the people, and that is the most important factor.
Mr J HADOULIS (“ATHENS NEWS”): Dr Rogge, I’d like to ask you a question based on something that you discussed, I believe, with the Prime Minister yesterday regarding the Schengen Treaty. Now, we know that for several months now ATHOC and the EU have been trying to work on a sort of arrangement regarding the visit of officials during the Games. I’d like to ask if there is any development on that.
And also regarding the arrival of one of your own members, Greece’s former King Konstantine, recently the Culture Minister, Mr. Venizelos, said that if necessary Greece is prepared to use legislation to prevent him from entering the country in any capacity, unless he agrees to, as it were, play ball with what the government wants. I’d like to ask for your position on this, and if Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki would also like to give us an opinion, please. Thank you.
Dr J ROGGE: I will comment on your second question on the presence of our member. The presence of the IOC members is guaranteed by the government under the host city contract. More I need not say.
On Schengen, I’d like to give the floor to a non-Schengen citizen, Mr Oswald of Switzerland. He knows more than me.
Mr D OSWALD: As you know, every accredited person for the Games should have access to the country organising the Games, without a visa. And when you are in an EU country then you have access to other EU countries.
And that’s the problem we are facing, because that means that a lot of people coming from a lot of different countries in the world will have access to Greece, and then to the European countries, without having a visa.
We are facing a similar problem with Turin for the Winter Games in 2008, and both the Greek and Italian Governments have been negotiating with the European Union to find a suitable solution, and we were told yesterday by the Prime Minister that an agreement has been reached. It still has to be finalised on paper, but the agreement has been reached and all accredited people will have access to Greece without a visa.
Mrs G ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: ATHOC respects and has to respect, as the Organising Committee, the Olympic Charter and the contract signed by our country and the International Olympic Committee. Thank you.
Mr F SIRIGOS: A question for the President. The organisation of the Olympic Games in Athens is characterised by something rather original, namely the National Olympic Committee and the Municipality of Athens do not participate in the organisation.
At the same time, the National Olympic Committee is deprived of some of its assets, just for the sake of the Olympic Games. Do you want to comment on that?
Dr J ROGGE: The Chairman of the National Olympic Committee is a member of the Board of ATHOC. The mayor is always involved in the organisation of the Olympic Games, and that is also provided by the host city contract.
As for the issue of the Karaiskakis Stadium, it is not up to me to comment. This is a decision that was taken. I have clearly urged the Government before that, that the National Olympic Committee be duly compensated for the decision that has been taken. How this compensation will have to take form is something not to be discussed by the IOC but by the National Olympic Committee.
Let me very clearly say that the role of the National Olympic Committee is finally to present the best possible team at the Olympic Games, and secondly to assist the Organising Committee in the staging of the Games. We have experienced no problems in these two very important duties that are very well led by Mr. Nikolaou.
Ms K MAKRI (“KIRIAKATIKI ELEFTHEROTIPIA”): Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, on the bid for security, when specifications were drafted the amount was approximately EUR250 million. How is it possible that we have reached approximately EUR350 million, and where does the procedure stand right now?
And Dr Rogge, with regard to security, are you more relaxed now, after the arrest of members of the terrorist organisation, 17 November?
Mrs G ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: Ms Makri, are you implying that I am one of the consortia taking part in the competition? Well, I’m not aware of the specific amounts. Or are you implying that this will be decided by ATHOC, the Organising Committee? Neither is the case.
I already answered that for us the timing is very crucial for judging these things. And certainly the Ministry of National Defence that is entrusted with carrying out this bid, is dealing and will deal with the final amount with which the bid will be awarded.
What we all know and what has been announced is that the amount has exceeded the initial specifications for sure. What we know, on our side, what was requested from us by the Government and from the consultants of ATHOC, is to prepare the specifications.
We have defined the specifications. We have told them what we need, what kind of infrastructure we need. We have submitted our view. Then the Ministry of Public Order dealt with the specifications and the bid now is handled by the Ministry of National Defence. Whenever the outcome is published, it will be known to everyone.
Dr J ROGGE: Of course, we are relieved by the crackdown on 17th November. A couple of years ago, we expressed to the Prime Minister our concern and also the concern of various countries towards this threat. The Prime Minister, without of course entering into details, told us clearly that every effort would be made and that he was optimistic that the problem would be solved before the Games. And that has been realised.
However, if you ask me if that solves the problem, of course not. Let us be realistic. There is more than a national potential threat on the Games. There is an international situation that is always looming.
The IOC has paid a dear price in Munich 1972 with the terrorist attack on the Israeli team. Since then, security has always been our number one priority. We have always had very strong collaboration with the governments and the organising committees for their part.
There has always been a very strong international collaboration on the Olympic Games, but if you ask my personal feeling, I have always in the Olympic Games – and I am a child of the Munich generation; I was there, I saw what happened – I am always only relieved two days after the closure of the Olympic Village, when I know that the last athlete has come safely home. Before that, you can never be sure.
But let me tell you that the IOC is working as hard as possible, together with its partners, and that security is always the highest priority. And I can say today that everything that is humanly possible is being put in place to provide the best possible security.
Mr TZELIS (“IMERISSIA”): A question for Dr Rogge. I would like to come back to a previous question because I was not really satisfied with the answer that was already provided. You talked about the meeting that you had with the Prime Minister on the budgets of the Games.
I would like you to tell us, please, what are the points that you focused your attention on in the meeting that you had with the Prime Minister? And also, what is being done in order to stick to the budget? Are you afraid that perhaps they are trying to stick to the budget that has already been set, that will have a negative impact on the quality of the Games?
And also, a question to Mrs. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. Have the 30 million that were missing already been found, or are we going to be stuck with 120 million, with various cuts that will have an impact on the quality of the Games?
Dr J ROGGE: Let me answer the first part and Mr. Oswald will then speak on the quality of the Games. We discussed yesterday with the Prime Minister on the Government’s support. Not on details of the budget, but budget came into the discussion.
And the Prime Minister reaffirmed what he has said since the very beginning, that the Government will respect its promises and the engagement it took in underwriting the organisation of the Games. We are asking for no more.
And again, I am saying you have to make a distinction between what is really needed for the Games and what is needed and wished for the improvement of the whole city.
If you ask me whether the roof of the Olympic Stadium is needed for the Games, the answer is clearly no, we can have Games without the roof. But the roof will be an improvement aesthetically for the Olympic Games.
You cannot say that the Olympic Games have provoked that. That is a wish and a desire of the Government and there are other aspects in which the Government wanted to take legitimately the opportunity of the Games to accelerate funding and spending that will be a benefit to all of you.
The IOC have asked the Government to put in place the basic infrastructure and the Government will respect that, and there are no overruns and over costs on that.
On the quality, let me give the floor, please, to Mr Oswald.
Mr D OSWALD: The President just mentioned that the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that the Government will deliver what they have promised to deliver. So we do not see any reason why we should fear that we would not have the quality of Games that we are expecting.
But of course, not every possible saving in a budget would affect the quality of the Games, and the President just mentioned the situation of the roof. And if something is not totally ready for the Games, sometimes you can have also temporary installations where the quality is not different from permanent.
But of course, we are also looking at leaving a legacy for the country, for sport and for the city, and therefore we will do our utmost to make sure that everything is ready on time and everything is delivered as it was promised from the beginning.
Mrs G ANGELOPOULOS-DASKALAKI: In our time schedule of ATHOC, we have until the end of January as a deadline by which we will have the news for the sponsors of the Torch Relay for the whole world. This is something we have put in our budget.
Our programme has not changed at all. It is natural: you must all understand that for the routing if you will, of the relay, we also want to inform the IOC because this is something that does not concern just Athens. It is the first time, of course, that the torch is going to go through Europe and is going to link the five continents; it is going to go through countries that have hosted Olympic Games before and also go through countries that have never hosted the Olympic light.
Of course, in Greece, in collaboration with the Greek Olympic Committee, we are going to set the exact relay of the Torch in order to remind the world that the power and the strength of the Olympic Games is the strength that we ourselves feel. This is the place, this is the country where the Games started, were launched, where the message that all of us throughout the world can live together, can compete and we can have friendship and amity throughout the world and the nations of the world. And this is something that will be a legacy for the future. This is what we want to remind the world of.
By the middle of February, there will be news coming from ATHOC, having gotten the agreement from the International Olympic Committee, because then we are going to have the budget set for the Torch Relay.
Ms A FLORES (“SPANISH NEWS AGENCY”): The Games are all about stopping war. Having the fact that you have embraced the idea of the Olympic Truce, is there anything else in your mind and that of the International Olympic Committee that could be done by 2004 to stop conflicts? And my second question is would the International Olympic Committee give the Games to a small country again? Thank you.
Dr J ROGGE: I am coming from a country that is exactly as big as yours and I consider Belgium and Greece as being very big countries. Can we award the Games to countries of the size of Greece, 10 million people? Or Belgium 10 million people? Of course. And this is the best proof. You do not need to be a country of 50-100 million.
Let me remind you that the very successful Winter Games in Lillehammer were organised in a country with 3 million people. What counts of course is then a total nation effort on which I have insisted in my preliminary remarks.
Secondly, the International Olympic Committee is also going to try to reduce as much as possible in the future the general organisational costs so that all countries could organise them.
On your question of the Olympic Truce, yes, this is something very dear to us. Sport is more than a physical activity; it is also a great educational tool for the youth. Not only does it strengthen their body and their mind but it gives them an identity, respect for authority, social skills and working in a team. It gives them health. And then, we have the ethical values of fair play, of peaceful cohabitation of the youth of the whole world with all the different ethnic groups, religious beliefs, cultures, languages.
And the IOC has always insisted whenever possible to have the idea of the ‘εκεχειρία’ (truce), which you have invented, and to spread it worldwide. It is difficult because we are a social organisation, we are not a political body, but I must say that in the last Games, there has been a truce during the 14 days of the Olympic Games.
There is also a resolution that is always passed unanimously by the United Nations in favour of the truce, but let us be realistic: the International Olympic Committee cannot stop war. How could we, when you see that a civilisation of 3000 years, cultures or religions are not capable of stopping war? How could a sports organisation do that?
But we are fighting, it is symbolic and it is adding our modest contribution to what everyone hopes and expects.
Mr E ANTONAROS: Mr President, I would like to thank you warmly for being present here, especially for sending this optimistic message. In concluding, despite the difficulties we know related to the ‘εκεχειρία’ (truce), we know that the political situation has not been the most pleasant one during the last years, but your presence here gave us a lot of joy because you found the time in a very heavy schedule to be here, as I said, together with Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who honoured our event.
You have thus formed us a clearer picture of the Olympic Games. And allow me also to say that if you happen to be in Athens again, one year later, a few months only before the Games, the Foreign Press Association, of which I have the honour to be the President, will have, I hope, the pleasure to have you once again with us, with Mrs Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Mr Oswald, Mr Nikolaou and Mr Filaretos, so that just before the finishing line, we can make an overview of the situation.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to remind you that the Foreign Press Association, in view of the Greek Presidency of the EU, will set up two more events, lunches, during this month. We have a fully fledged programme on the 23rd in this very room. We will meet with the Minister for the National Economy Mr Christodoulakis, and on the 29th with the Foreign Minister, Mr Papandreou, whom we managed literally to steal out of other obligations.
Thank you once again.
(Source ATHENS 2004)