The Olympics

The Olympics


News, information and stories about the Olympics.

Monday, May 31, 2004

The Blame Culture

It is reported that Greece's new finance minister, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, has admitted that the cost of hosting the Olympic games in Athens this year is higher than expected.

He has also said that the rewards are less than Greece anticipated.

In a fine example of "high politics" he has blamed the previous socialist administration for the delays and cost overruns. Alogoskoufis's party defeated them in the March elections, and now have the pleasure of getting the preparations on track for the opening on the 13th of August.

Greece was awarded the Olympics in 1997, but adopting a "laid back attitude"; did not start work on construction and other important areas until 2000. This was only at the behest of the IOC, who warned them they games were in danger.

It seems that the estimated costs have risen by a "whopping" $1.19 billion, on top of this the delays in construction have damaged Greece's "brand value".

Why do countries still bother trying to hold these?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Hanging On The Telephone

It seems that issues with regard to site construction and security aren't the only causes for concern, as preparations continue for the Olympics 2004 being hosted in Athens.

In a rather unwise move (to my view), only one company has been given the contract to supply all the communications infrastructure for the games. The infrastructure will have to feed a news hungry world-wide audience, estimated to be 4BN.

Putting all your eggs in one basket is a high risk strategy, which may not pay off.

The telecommunications infrastructure has to provide services to 60 Olympic facilities in Athens, and the rest of Greece. A network has to be built to carry a broadcast signal from all Olympic facilities to the international broadcast centre, which houses over 1500 fiber-optic cables.

43000 phone lines will have to be set up, along with 6000 high-speed computer connections and 5000 broadband data connections. Secure lines also have to be put in place for the police, and other emergency services.

The telecom infrastructure, used by ordinary Greek citizens and visitors, has to be up the task of handling the load during the games as well.

The company entrusted with this Herculean task is OTE.

Rumours are circulating that there have been setbacks and delays in their efforts to finish on schedule. Greek newspapers have reported that they have only completed 50% of their scheduled tasks.

However, OTE are confident that everything will be alright on the night; and blamed the situation on the delays in building construction, not their responsibility.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Money Well Spent?

It seems that the delivery of the IT security system for the Athens Olympics will be delayed until the end of June.

The system is being supplied by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), who had promised to deliver it by the end of May.

There are unconfirmed reports that even when delivered, the system will only be 85% functional; does that give you a feeling of confidence, or not?

Security is proving to be an expensive headache, the cost is estimated to be 1BN Euros. Given the cost, one might have expected that the authorities would get a system that was 100% functional.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Oops, Off Message

In a splendidly frank and honest admission the Greek Public Works Minister, George Souflias, has said that Greece may have made a mistake in taking on the Athens Olympics for this summer.

Costs seem to be out of control, with construction and security matters proving to be a major headache.

One particular tale, that probably best sums up the chaos wrt security and construction, has caught my eye.

It seems that one of the companies hired to dig the sewers for the Olympic sites, and lay the manhole covers over the sewers, has done a splendid job in respect of laying the nice new manhole covers.

Unfortunately, the cover nothing; as they neglected to dig the sewers.

These games are going to be fun!

Thursday, May 27, 2004


It seems that this site is not alone in providing commentary on the Olympics, via the internet.

It is expected that the Olympics 2004 will see a surge in reporting via the net, and mobile phones.

The doubling of broadband subscribers over the last two years is expected to fuel this demand for live streaming and related news.

The Olympic organisers expect 10M web visitors a day.

Major companies such as Canon and T-Mobile are jumping on the Olympic internet bandwagon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Nuclear Olympics

I understand that the US Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, has given hand held radiological detection equipment to Greek officials; to help with improving security for the forthcoming Olympic Games, being held in Athens.

Additionally, the US are also providing assistance with regard to protecting against the theft of radioactive materials located within Greece; that could be used for terrorist purposes during the Olympic Games. They are also implementing security upgrades at the Demokritos research reactor.

How reassuring for the athletes and the spectators!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Place Your Bets Ladies and Gents

As we all know people like to take a little "flutter" on sporting events, the Olympics 2004 provides the whole world a stupefying opportunity to indulge in a betting fest.

In some senses, it can be argued that this betting frenzy offers a rare opportunity for people around the world to be unified in a common cause namely; trying to make money from the effort of others.

I understand that many gaming firms are getting ready for an explosion of online betting trade during the Olympics.

The pace of change in technology means that people around the world can now place a bet via their TV, mobile phone, internet or betting shop.

I suspect though, that at the end of the day, it will be the "bookies" who make the most money rather than the "punters".

Monday, May 24, 2004

Less Haste More Speed

Yesterday's tragic roof collapse at Charles De Gaulle Airport, provides an apposite reminder to the Greek authorities over the possible dangers of rushing building works.

As has been widely reported, building works in time for the 2004 Olympic Games (being held in Athens) are falling behind schedule.

As anyone, who has had building work done for them, knows when things start to fall behind schedule there is an almighty temptation for the builders to "rush and bodge".

We trust that the Greek authorities are fully supervising construction and will, if necessary, have the "guts" to say "we cannot complete certain works"; rather than hide a bodge job under paint and flowers.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Alternative Olympics

Those of you not of a sporting bent, may be pleased to know that there is an alternative to the sporting fest being held in Athens.

Barcelona is holding a five month cultural/intellectual forum aimed at solving the world's problems.

Now that does sound worthwhile!

Subjects to be covered include; peace, diversity and sustainable development.

Visitors to Barcelona will not be bored, there will be an array of exhibitions and conferences, plus 450 concerts by a variety of artists including; Sting and Bob Dylan.

Barcelona has built a 125 acre site to host the forum, this will be one of the world's largest conference centres.

The Forum's website is

Saturday, May 22, 2004

A Big Fat Cow

I understand that the "beautification" of Athens, in time for the Olympics, has fallen foul of the budget constraints.

It seems that good quality plants and shrubs, that would have been able to take root and flourish in the hottest part of the year, have been axed.

So much for the Games adding value to the city that hosts them!

In fact, as I have noted, these games are likely to be the most controversial ever held. An "anti 2004 alliance", consisting of; artists, anarchists, architects, greens and other assorted "scallywags" is organising an ongoing campaign of protests against the Athens 2004 Games.

The anti 2004 alliance believes that the Games have turned into a money making extravaganza; with the lofty ideals of sportsmanship, and co-operation between nations long since abandoned.

They believe that the Games have become a "big fat cash cow".

True or not, I suspect that the good citizens of Athens will see very little of the cash themselves.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Dad to the Rescue

It is reported that President Bush says Greece is making "good progress", in its efforts to protect the Olympics 2004 from a terrorist attack.

A cynic might remark that praise from the man who engineered the current "stability and security" in Iraq, is not necessarily worth that much.

Unfortunately, it being an election year, the President won't be attending the games himself. He will instead send his 80 year old father.

I doubt that the election is the prime reason for skipping the Olympic Games.

Those of you who were present in London a while ago, when the President visited, will recall the enormous security precautions taken there. They were exceptionally costly in terms of manpower, money and disruption to daily life.

All of that was required to make the President feel safe in a country that is a stable ally, and well used to protecting VIP's.

Imagine the chaos and confusion that would occur if he went to Greece.

The sad fact for the USA is, that there are simply very few countries in the world now that can make the President of the world's most powerful nation feel safe.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Enhance Your Performance

The drug scandal that simply won't go away.

Kelli White, a world class sprinter, has been barred from the Olympics 2004 being held in Athens; seemingly as a result of the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO).

Kelli, it appears, has admitted to using steroids and another nefarious enhancing substance. She has been suspended from competition for two years.

It seems that others may well be given a "spanking", for dabbling in enhancing drugs, as the evidence from the BALCO investigation is scrutinised.

Rumours are that the Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, another runner, are also in the sights of the US Anti Doping Agency.

USADA will be conducting tests, seemingly this will be a case of "urine, you're out".

In other news, London is through to the next stages of deciding who will host the Olympic games in 2012. It came third out of five.

However, the judges gave London a dressing down for its lousy transport infrastructure.

Not much of a surprise there then?

Given the above, the only question that the citizens of the UK should be addressing is; why waste £25M of taxpayers' money, on bidding for something that they have no chance of winning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Volte Farce

It seems that, in a complete turn around from earlier statements, Greece now expects to reduce its public deficit to 2.9 percent of output in 2004. This is in contrast to earlier statements predicting another year of deficits in excess of 3%, the EU's budgetary ceiling.

Greece seems to be relying on the Keynesian principle of "pay a man to dig a hole, rather than pay him to do nothing" coming to the rescue of its bloated budget.

Greece's Economy and Finance Minister Yiorgos Alogoskoufis, is now expecting the general government deficit will reach 2.9%.

This is despite the fact that the cost of the Olympic Games 2004 is now expected to be a whopping 5.4BN Euros.

The magic 2.9% (below the 3% threshold) is to be achieved by unidentified funds saving post Olympics 2004.

Well we can all hope!

In May, the much respected and trusted, Eurostat statistics agency (see In Your Face and read my article about fraud to see what I think of them) said that the Greek deficit was 3.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003. In April 2004 the EU's executive commission noted that the Greek deficit was likely to stay at 3.2% in 2004.

Given the above, would anyone care to venture an opinion as to how Greece will dip below the 3% threshold?

Answers please on a postcard to the Greek Finance Minister, I suspect he needs all the help that he can get.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Sex Is No Barrier

The International Olympic Committee has approved a measure that will allow individuals, who have undergone sex change surgery, to be eligible for competing in the Olympics.

They must have undergone a minimum of two years post operation hormone therapy, and be legally recognised in their new gender.

There had, until now, been concerns that those individuals who had changed from men to women; may have had an advantage, in terms of capacity and strength. However, it is believed that the hormone therapy counteracts that advantage.

However, there are some concerns voiced by a few; that the love of money may encourage certain "idiots" to change sex, in order to have a perceived advantage.

Monday, May 17, 2004

It's All BALCO's

I understand that Marion Jones, two time 100 metre champion, has indicated that she will go to court if the USA Anti Drug Agency stops her going to the Olympics in Athens this year.

It seems that the USADA can now keep athletes from competing not just because of a positive drug test, but also if there is other evidence of drug violations.

Marion Jones is a tad "pissed off" at this, and vented her spleen to journalists about the matter.

However, she made no comment about the BALCO issue.

BALCO is the Bay Area Lab Co-operative, it seems that there have been allegations about drug violations; whereby athletes have allegedly been obtaining steroids.

Marion Jones and other athletes have testified in front of a grand jury about BALCO.

It seems that a Senate committee may be handing over documents to USADA about their investigation into BALCO.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Hardly Sporting, Is It?

I understand that, despite qualifying to attend the Olympics in Athens 2004, the South African Hockey Team may have hit a snag.

The Greeks are miffed at not qualifying; instead of taking their defeat on the chin, "like a man", they have taken the matter up in court (how very mature and sporting of them!).

Their case will be heard at the Court of Arbitration of Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday.

Their argument runs along these lines:

"Since we are hosting this event, our hockey team must appear even if they are not very good".

If the Greeks win then the South Africans, who deserve to attend, will be booted out; as only 12 teams can compete.

Absolutely pathetic, I hope the South Africans win the court case.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

A Peaceful Sporting Festival?

Despite the fact that, so we are all told, the Olympics Games are about peace and friendly competition between nations; approximately $1.2BN has been spent on security for the 2004 Olympics Games in Athens.

Nothwithstanding the above, people still seem to be nervous.

Particularly the Americans who are contemplating, so it is rumoured, pulling out at the 11th hour.

In my view this would be a very foolish message to send to the world; in effect it would be saying "we, the citizens of the US, are afraid to interact with the rest of the world".

To help the US get over its nerves the Games will have an estimated 70,000 security personnel on duty, NATO will be helping out and others such as; Russia and the UK will be sending their security people into the general melee as well.

However, it seems that there are a few glitches that the organisers need to attend to. On Thursday a handful of UK and German journalists strolled round the main stadium for a while, before being stopped.

Friday, May 14, 2004

It's The Money Stupid

I see that the biggest ever Olympic Store has opened, in a shopping centre in Athens. It has around 700 square metres of selling space.

This is enough space to contain all the trivia, trinkets and associated bits and pieces that go to make the modern day Olympics what it is today; a massive marketing exercise in brand and product placement.

But don't forget, in spite of the massive commercialisation, the Games are still about sport and competition between "amateurs".

Yeah right!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Delphic Reasoning

It seems that, with a logic that only terrorists can come up with, a Greek fringe group calling itself the "Revolutionary Struggle" has claimed responsibility for three bomb blasts in Athens last week.

The reasons for the attack, according to the group, were to protest against the heavy security measures ahead of the Olympics.

The group is claiming to be concerned about "Greece's transformation into a fortress". Their other worries are; NATO's involvement and the involvemnet of various intelligence agencies.

They feel that the Olympics are turning into a war, rather than a sporting event.

Maybe guys, if you stop letting off bombs the Olympics may feel less like a war? Just a thought!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Pop Goes The Weasel

It seems that the cost of hosting the Olympics will push the Greek government's budget deficit over the EU limit for 2004.

Slightly embarrassing, as Greece "busted" the limit last year as well.

The Greek Economics Minister George Alogoskoufis has assured the EU that they will try to stay within the limits in 2005.

I don't think he needs to worry, the EU "Stability Pact" is routinely ignored by other members of the EU; without suffering any more than a mild rebuke from the "Gnomes" in Brussels.

The cost of the Olympics is expected to be around 2.5BN Euros, a staggering 1BN Euros over budget.

By the way, that cost does not include the expense of building the infrastructure (such as new rail links etc); to cope with the influx of people expected to attend the Olympics in Athens.

Let's hope the organisation of the security and logistics is better than the financial management!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

It is reported that the USA's Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, believes that more work is required on security matters for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

He aired his views whilst meeting with the Greek Public Order Minister, Yiorgos Voulgarakis, during the latter's visit to Washington.

The USA is willing to help with security, if invited by Greece to do so.

The Greek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is reported to have said that "Greece is a safe destination. The noise made across the world (about the attacks) was louder than the one created by the firecrackers that went off."

So that's alright then.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Welcome to "The Village"

Good news, the Athens Olympic Village at the foot of Mount Parnitha, will open 3 weeks before the Olympic Games start.

Over 16,000 athletes and their entourages will be accommodated there.

Some statistics:

  • 2292 air conditioned apartments

  • 10000 staff

  • 71 days days of life, until it closes on 1 October

  • Multi faith; Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew and Hindu, will all have places for prayer and counseling

  • Restaurants a plenty, from kosher to halal

  • Shopping mall facilities including; a museum, shops, a bank, a library, a post office, hairdressers, snack bars, internet cafes, video games rooms and massage rooms.

Needless to say, it also has some athletic facilities; should the contestants feel the need to "stretch their legs".

Once the Olympic Games are over, the area will be used for low cost public housing.

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Smoke and Mirrors

Much like a conjurer seeking to dazzle his audience, the authorities in Greece managing the Athens Olympics are hoping to distract the eyes of the world wide audience away from the unfinished buildings and eyesores; by using banners to cover the buildings.

A team of graphic designers has been hired to manage the building dressing.

It is estimated that over 6500 banners will be used, plus a vast swathe of fabric to cover fences and other "bits and pieces".

The banners will be up between July and October whilst the Olympic Games are being held.

I wonder if the ordinary citizens of Athens are impressed by this "tart's dressing"?

Saturday, May 8, 2004

100 trees have been planted in the Garden of Nations by volunteers.

The Garden of Nations is a theme garden in the Olympic village, which will accommodate the great and good from the world of sport during the Athens Olympics.

Doubtless this will make up for the forests of wood used in the manufacture of the brochures, pamphlets and other assorted media literature that have been disseminated around the world publicising the Olympics.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Reports are coming in that Didier Gailhaguet, the head of France's figure skating federation, has resigned.

During the winter Games in 2002, at Salt Lake City, Gailhaguet was accused by French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne of putting undue pressure on her to vote in favour of a Russian pair. This caused Canada to miss out on the gold medal. She later retracted the accusation.

The reasons for Gailhaguet's resignation have not been clarified.

Whoever said that sport was meant to be about "fair play"?

In other news, it seems that the official website of the Olympic Games is having a little trouble with its geography.

It seems that for whatever bizarre geopolitical reasons, that only the organisers of the Olympic Games could tie themselves up with, Jerusalem is not listed as Israel's capital city on the website.

The name of the capital city is, according to the website, (*).

The footnote, at the bottom of the webpage, helpfully directs the geographically challenged to the UN website for further information regarding the capital of Israel.

To make matters worse, a while ago the website had 'Jerusalem' as the capital of 'Palestine', while Israel's capital slot was left empty.

There were, not surprisingly, a series of complaints from all and sundry.

The Olympic officials running the site decided that, in order to avoid being "controversial", they would simply avoid answering the question and refer it to the UN.

Needless to say, this little spat will run and run.

The Olympics is not about sporting excellence, in the spirit of friendly competition between nations; it is about the imposition of individual nation state's cultural values and views on others.

The strongest wins; to the detriment of the others, and to the ideal of sporting achievement and co-operation.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, stated yesterday that the Olympics would go ahead despite the bombings.

He added, cryptically, "Of course we keep these things under review".

Blair remains confident that the arrangements being put in place by the Greek authorities will provide a safe environment for the athletes.

That's alright then isn't it?

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

100 Days to Go

There are now 100 days to go until the start of the Olympic Games 2004 in Athens.

This milestone has been greeted this morning by three bombs, exploding outside a police station in Athens.

In other news, the construction of the Olympic stadium roof seems to be off schedule. The roof, billed as Greece's greatest architectural triumph since the Parthenon, is meant to resemble the ribcage of a whale.

However, it seems that the deadline of 20th of May will not be met.

Should that deadline, set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), be missed; then the construction work will be halted, and the stadium will be left exposed to the August sunshine of Athens.

This will be neither pleasant for the athletes, or the spectators.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

I understand that 4.5M copies of printed material, weighing 55 tonnes, have been mailed in connection with the Olympic games.

This use of natural resources seems, in my view, to sit a little uncomfortably with the environmental policy of the Olympics namely; "respecting the original landscape and using natural resources rationally".
The question that is on everyone's' lips at the moment, is will the infrastructure will actually be completed in time for the Olympic games?
Coverage of the events in and around the Olympics 2004, which are being held in Athens.