The Olympics

The Olympics


News, information and stories about the Olympics.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Shades of Big Brother

It seems that there are concerns in Athens that the elaborate security precautions, being taken by the authorities for the hosting of the Olympics 2004, may still be there long after the last gold medal has been awarded and the Olympic flame extinguished.

The forthcoming Games have given the Greek authorities an excuse to do what very government in the world wants to do, namely to spy on its citizens. The Greek government passed an anti terrorist bill; and as a result of that, the streets of Athens are literally festooned with cameras and surveillance/listening devices.

There is, I suspect, the lingering doubt in the minds of the citizens of Athens that these "security measures" may well be left "in situ" when the Games are over at the end of August.

It seems that, if reports are to be believed, certain high ranking officials in the Greek authorities have already floated the idea that "it would be a shame to waste the hard work, and money expended in making Athens a national security capital".

Oh dear, monitoring people for their own protection does seem to have an uncomfortable Orwellian echo.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Cars Come First

In a far cry from the simpler times of the first Olympics held in Athens, the Olympics 2004 need to take into account the needs of the automobile.

To this end, over 56000 parking and access control permits have been handed out to the various municipalities in the Athens area. During the period from the 2nd of August to the 31st of August special parking and access restrictions will be in place; in order to ensure that Athens, noted for its free flowing easy to navigate streets and highways, remains free of congestion.

The allocation of these valuable documents, doubtless there will be a black market in them, has been based on on the number of applications filled in at the Municipalities.

From a cursory glance at the different codings on the permits, and the restrictions applicable to each type of permit, it seems that the citizens of Athens will need to apply some considerable intellectual effort if they wish to understand the rules and regulations.

I cite this, as a random example, of the rules from the official press release:

"All vehicles may enter the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ), but only those with a Venue Access and Parking Permit for the specific CPZ may park and, of course, those with Permit for the respective CACZ. A CPZ permit holder is not permitted to park within the CACZ...."

To add to the confusion, that this system will doubtless cause, the access and parking permits will have 3 variables:

1 Colour

2 Venue

3 Vehicle number

Got that?

My advice to the good citizens of Athens is simple, whilst the Games are on, go away on holiday to another city or country.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Games Will Run Like Clockwork

Preparations for the forthcoming Olympic Games, being held in Athens in August, have been overseen by Swiss lawyer; this, it is hoped, will ensure that they will run smoothly.

Denis Oswald is the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) top inspector, and as such was charged with overseeing the preparations for the Games.

Given the infrastructure issues at Athens, he has been quite busy as of late. He has been monitoring the progress for the last 3 years, since being asked to do so by the IOC President Jacques Rogge.

He will now be very familiar with the city of Athens, as it is reported that he has been there 25 times in the last 3 years.

His nickname, to some Greeks, is "Denis the Menace". Let's hope things turn out a little better for him in the end, than his cartoon namesake.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Safe as the Middle East

It is reported that, in the light of the security concerns over the Olympics 2004 (being held in Athens), Israel will be taking a prominent role in assisting with the security arrangements.

The reports indicate that even the Israeli navy may be deployed in Greek coastal waters, in order to deal with "suspicious" ships.

The cost of the security operation for the Olympics 2004, is currently estimated to be around $1.2BN.

In addition to the navy, Israeli intelligence and private Israeli firms will be on hand to provide expertise, training and equipment.

It seems that had Greece not agreed to receive this assistance, Israel may well have boycotted the Olympics 2004; as they perceived the original security arrangements to be dreadful.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Can't Drop, Won't Drop

The organisers of the Olympic Games 2004, which are being held in Athens this August, are faced with something of a dilemma.

There are over 3 million unsold tickets for the Games, which begin in a little over 50 days time.

The organising committee will be launching a media blitz, which will push the Games as the safest yet etc. However, the simplest way to shift tickets would be to drop the prices.

Unfortunately, a mixture of stubbornness and worries about complaints from people who have already paid full price for their tickets are preventing this most sensible idea being implemented.

If you have any ideas as to how the tickets could be shifted, please feel free to drop me a line.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

No Sweat

Those of you who lay in bed at night worrying about where to buy Olympic T shirts and sports products, that have not been produced by "sweat shop" labour, may soon be able to rest a little easier at night.

It is reported that NGO's, such as Oxfam, are increasing the pressure on firms such as Adidas et al to remove the taint of sweated labour.

The campaign "Play Fair at the Olympics", launched earlier this year, highlights the concern of the NGO's that manufacturing firms have been pushing their workers to the limit; in order to stock the shelves in time for the Olympics 2004, which are being held in Athens Greece.

The campaign highlights the wages of those who make these products; eg in Indonesia one company was paying its workers $99 per month for a 16 hour day.

The major companies that produce these articles claim that they have codes of conduct, that cover the ages and working conditions of their workforce. However, enforcing and policing them is difficult.

I would like to offer these companies a little tip; I was directly involved in the development and distribution of the codes of conduct for Philips and De Beers (see my resume), guys you are more than welcome to approach me for advice.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Flame in New York

The Olympic flame stopped off at the UN yesterday, as part of its world tour.

Kofi Annan lit an altar in front of the UN, which had been designed for the flame. Much was made of the symbolism of the visit of the flame to the UN.

Peace and goodwill to men were very much on peoples' minds at the ceremony.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

It'll Be Alright on The Night

It seems that those of you worried about being able to buy tickets for the Olympics 2004, being held in Athens Greece, need not panic.

It is reported that Fani Palli-Petralia, Greece's Deputy Culture Minister, has stated that the Greek authorities may ask for lower ticket prices for the Games if sales don't pick up.

I understand that over 2.5M tickets (out of a total of 5M) for the Games have yet to be sold. This is despite the fact that the prices are lower than 4 years ago, when the Games were held in Sydney.

The Greek government are already very sensitive about the crtiticism that is being heaped upon them, for the poor organisation of the Games. Having half filled stadiums would be the final humiliation.

It seems that the organisers are counting on the well known Greek habit of doing everything at the last minute; and hoping for a last minute dash to buy the tickets.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Shooting Party

There is a fascinating story from "down under" which, if true, shows how stupid some athletes really are; and how they give sport and winning an undue, and unhealthy, priority in their lives.

It seems that 6 Australian cyclists, some of whom are due to attend and compete in the 2004 Olympics, are alleged to have used a hotel bedroom last year for injecting prohibited substances into their "healthy" bodies.

The venue for this little "shooting party" was, according to Kate Lundy Labour party sports spokesperson, the Australian Institute of Sport's facility in Adelaide.

Even more bizarrely, is the fact that one of the substances allegedly used was equine growth hormone.

Yes, you did read correctly, something that would normally be given to horses.

In the event that these allegations turn out to be true, my advice to these dimwitted athletes is simply this:

Get a life losers!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Greedy Bastards

Following on from my post yesterday, about the threat of strikes by police and other public service workers; it seems that industrial discontent is rising, along with the temperature in Athens, as the clock ticks down towards the Olympic Games.

Now the hotel workers and taxi drivers are "kicking up a fuss" over money.

The taxi drivers are having a "hissy fit" over plans by the Olympic organisers to ferry VIP's around in mini cabs and vans, rather than pay the "Olympic premium" demanded by the taxi drivers during the period of the Games.

The taxi drivers, for reasons best known to themselves, have threatened to remove VIP's from their cabs and any other vehicle they see. It seems that this constitutes some form of threat, that people should lose sleep over!

The hotel workers took more direct action, by having a punch up with the police yesterday. Peace and harmony, that's the true spirit of the Games!

It seems that the ordinary citizens of Greece are beginning to get more than a little "pissed off" with the entire affair, and are wishing the IOC had chosen another country to host the Games.

The cost of holding the Olympic games is now estimated by the finance minister, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, to be around 6BN Euros (up 30% on previous estimates).

These increased costs have forced some cut backs in the spending, the construction of a large sundial outside the main stadium has now been cancelled.

Never mind, so long as the taxi drivers and their chums manage to extort their "wedge" it will all have been worth it!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Holding The Games to Ransom

It is reported that Greek state employees are threatening to strike during the Olympic Games in Athens this August, unless all workers receive bonus payments during this period.

It seems that 60000 police, firefighters and port workers who are directly involved with the Olympic Games will be entitled to bonuses of around 2500 euros each.

However, others such as; the military, municipal workers and hospital workers won't be getting a "bung".

Therefore, in the spirit of equality, the unions representing the "downtrodden" non bonus receiving masses has threatened to strike.

In a demonstration of "good faith", hospital workers in Athens have planned a "warning" strike on June 23rd. Whilst the ambulance drivers and paramedics have threatened a strike on the 13th of August (oh dear that's the day the Olympic Games actually starts, how embarrassing!).

In the event that the Greek government cowtows to this blackmail; the estimated additional cost, on top of the already extortionate cost of the Games, will be $1.5BN.

What a splendid example of the spirit of the Games!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Petty Nitpicking

It seems that, despite the fact that the Athens 2004 Olympics are less than two months away, some people are happy to indulge in petty squabbles.

It is reported that the sole Indian entry to Greco-Roman wrestling has been having a bit of a tiff with his coach.

The wrestler had booked a trip to the US without the apparent knowledge of his trainer, who was under the impression that they would be going to Bulgaria.

The coach, in a fit of peek, decided to complain to the Indian Sports Ministry; citing the fact that the hapless wrestler had shown no respect to the Government of India.

The wrestler, Mukesh Khatri, is reported to have speculated that the real reason for the "prima donna hissy fit" of the coach may be more to do with the fact that as he is the only entry from India in that category, the coach is unlikely to be accompanying him to Athens; for it seems that Kahtri has booked his own trainer to go there with him.

Nice to see everyone has their eyes on the "big picture".

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

NATO To The Rescue

The security threat to the Olympics, being held in Athens this year, is being taken seriously by Greece's neighbours in Bulgaria.

It is reported that Bulgaria will receive the full NATO database on fighting terror.

It will also upgrade its security on its southern border during the Olympic Games in August. They will be looking to prevent suicide bombers, and explosives crossing the border into Greece.

The Bulgarian secret services and the Interior Ministry were assigned special tasks during the Conference on Olympics Security, which was held in Athens a fortnight ago.

Bulgaria has been given profiles of the most wanted terrorists, together with instructions for recognising them.

Let us hope that they won't be needed.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Coming In Under The Wire

It seems that in a last minute dash to the finishing line, the Greek authorities may just get most things ready for the Olympic Games in Athens this August.

Admittedly it will be "last minute".

However, there are many loose ends to clear up; such as painting the roof of the Olympic stadium and installing the remaining 67000 seats.

The cost of these games is estimated at the moment to be around $7BN. However, it is likely that this will rise.

Will the Greeks, once the party is over, say that it has been worth it?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Off Message

The Olympics in Athens are barely 60 days away. However, there are some very public fears about the wisdom of holding them in Athens being expressed by some high profile personalities.

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, is reported to have said that holding the Olympic Games in Athens will be risky.

He seems to have a preference for Rome. The impression that Mr Rogge has given is that the Games were awarded to Greece, not for their infrastructure or competence, but as a sign of gratitude for them coming up with the idea of the Olympics some 3000 years ago.

I would venture to suggest that this is a little late in the day to be having second thoughts.

Jumping on the bandwagon of doubters, the head of the World Anti Doping Agency (Dick Pound) is reported to be worried that the Olympic Games in Athens will be "tumultuous".

His list of worries include; air pollution, doping violations, security concerns and the incomplete infrastructure in Athens.

Can anyone tell me which one of these issues was not known at the time of the biding?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Brain is a Muscle Too

I understand that, aside from celebrating the muscular achievements of athletes, there will also be a celebration of international culture and art in Athens; this will be held alongside the Olympics 2004 in Athens.

This event, known as Articade 2004, will feature the work of artists from around the world; together with a display of culture from their respective countries.

The artists will, via their medium, try to represent the lives, problems and issues facing the citizens of their respective countries.

Artists were selected on the basis of two submissions they were invited to make, focusing on their countries socio-political background.

Friday, June 11, 2004

007 Drops In

The original 007, aka Sir Sean Connery and his wife Lady Micheline Roquebrune Connery, dropped in on ATHENS 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki yesterday.

It is reported that the meeting was at the request of Sir Sean, who claims to be something of an aficionado on the subject of the Olympic preparations.

During a brief press conference Sir Sean noted that Mrs Angelopoulos had a very impressive personality, and that the presentation about the preparations for the Olympics 2004 was also impressive.

By all accounts they had a nice conversation.

Sir Sean hopes to be able to attend the Olympics at some stage. However, that is dependent on his film schedule.

He noted that Greece was different to other countries, a somewhat peculiar comment I feel, but that the Games will be successful.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Test Run

The Olympic stadium in Athens will be put through its paces today, as various track and field athletes will compete in front of a "guinea pig" audience of 8000.

Those of you with a mathematical bent, may wonder why a stadium with a capacity of 75000 is only going to accommodate 8000 for a test run.

The answer lies in the simple fact that out of the 75000 seats, only 8000 have been installed. That leaves 67000 to be installed by the start of the Olympic Games, in a little over 60 days time.

That means that a over 1000 seats a day need to be put into position, that should be manageable I think.

To some extent you would have thought that the basic infrastructure, such as the seating, would have been in place by now; given the fact that Greece has spent lavishly on this project. However, it seems that the more "sexy parts" of the construction have been diverting peoples' energies.

I understand that the spending, and lavish constructions, planned for the Olympics 2004 have not met with the approval of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC President, Jacques Rogge, has suggested that Greece has misdirected its efforts; and spent far too much on the forthcoming Olympic Games.

It is reported that he and the IOC had only ever wanted simple structures, that would be easy to put into place; and not cost the earth. Instead Greece went "hell for leather" and came up with a plethora of lavish designs and concepts, amongst others, the "whale's rib cage" roof for the Olympic Stadium. This retails at a very "reasonable" 190M Euros.

I think that in future the IOC will pick countries, to host the Games, that already have a decent infrastructure in place.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

The Great Wall Illuminated by The Olympic Flame

The Olympic flame has arrived in Beijing, the host of the 2008 Olympic Games.

The flame was brought to the Great Wall of China, one of the great construction achievements of mankind.

The torch was carried along a section of the wall by a group of Chinese athletes yesterday. There was a reasonable turnout of spectators, estimated to be around 2000 people.

The official relay with the Olympic torch will begin today, and kick off in Tiananemn Square. It will finish its Chinese journey in the Summer Palace.

Meanwhile in Greece, P. Fasoulas (former President of the Greek Olympic Winners Association) has called those who doubt that the Olympic games will be ready on schedule "moaning Minnies".

In a press conference held yesterday, he expressed the opinion that it was impertinent to suggest that nothing was ready.

No worries then!

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

The Secret Opening Ceremony

The day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony, on the 13th of August, draws near.

The exact nature of the ceremony is, to ensure maximum effect, being kept secret. However, it would not take too much brain "muscle" to speculate that it will involve Greek heritage (history, culture art etc) and their gift to the world of the Games.

I think it fair to expect a significant number of references to Greek mythology, I wonder if they will mention Glaux?, and a very large number of people wearing ancient Greek costumes.

It is reported that there will be 8000 volunteers involved in the actual ceremonies, and another 2000 support staff.

Rather mysteriously, a large hole has been dug in the Olympic stadium. It is rumoured to be for some form of water spectacular. Maybe a large amount of water is a good idea, in case of a fire, as it seems that the Olympic cauldron may be suspended over the stadium.

The music for the ceremonies is also being kept a secret. However, I have seen rumours that George Michael may have been commissioned to write something; he has come a long way since working as a waiter in a Greek restaurant in London, all those years ago.

Monday, June 7, 2004

It's an Ill Wind

It seems as though Athens has been waiting a few centuries, or so, for the Olympic Games to return.

That at least is the impression one gains from the massive building site that has consumed the ancient city of Athens.

The massive construction and restoration effort is entirely due to the forthcoming Olympics. It seems that without these, the city's infrastructure and monuments would have been left very much alone.

Not all are happy with the makeover, archaeological purists are aghast at the attempts to renovate ancient monuments such as the Parthenon.

Aside from the ancient, there is also the modern such as; 15000 new taxis, buses that use natural gas, a new underground system, a tram link and a spanking new suspension bridge between Rio and Antirio.

The IOC is 100% confident that everything will be ready on time.

The question is, are these modern wonders as durable as their ancient forebears; will they still be around in the centuries to come?

Sunday, June 6, 2004

The Games of Smiles

The clock is ticking, there is now a little over two months left until the start of the Olympic Games on the 13th of August.

Bearing this in mind, the Greek hosts are testing the facilities.

A basketball game will be played today in the new sports complex, which is built on the site of the former Athens airport.

Next week swimming and track cycling will be performed at the Athens Olympic Sports Complex; track and field events will be held in the Olympic Stadium, which is still classified as "work in progress".

It is reported that the President of Athens 2004, Gianna Angeloulos, has put pressure on the Greek Prime Minister to "pull his finger out"; in respect of hurrying things along.

Gianna Angeloulos is quoted as saying: "These Games must be the Games of smiles and not the Games of misery. Whatever outstanding issues there are, they must be solved."

Well said!

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Flame Ignited

And so it begins; the Olympic flame has been lit in Sydney Australia, from a lantern flown in from Greece.

The Olympic flame will now travel the globe, and visit the world's Olympic cities.

Cathy Freemen, who lit the Sydney Olympic cauldron in 2000, had the honour of first holding the flame. The flame is symbolic of the hope, more important today than ever, of the Olympics bringing the world together.

The flame was carried by 144 different people, it will now be returned to the lantern; and flown on to Melbourne, then Tokyo and another 31 cities before the start of the Games on the 13th of August.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Peace and Goodwill

In the true spirit of the Olympic Games, Greece has steadfastly refused to officially allow foreign security services to sport weapons outside the designated secure zones. The Greek constitution prevents foreigners from bearing arms.

However, the reality will be somewhat different. The Greeks have admitted that whilst they will not condone the carrying of weapons, there is nothing they can do to prevent it; unless they want the US, UK and Israelis to walk out of the games.

The Greek government, of course, still officially denies that delegations will have their own security teams.

However, the Greek media have smelt a rat; and have reported that there is a secret agreement between the Greek government and the USA, to allow US armed security teams into Greece.

What price the peaceful fellowship of the Games?

In other news, there was a rumour circulating in the Greek press that Mr Souflias (the Public Works Minister) has been advising the Greek government to postpone the start of the games; from the planned opening date of the 13th of August.

Mr Souflias has strenuously denied this, saying that the report was a hoax.

So I can still book my trip then?

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Who Pays?

It seems that all is not well in South Korean Olympic circles.

It is reported that the head of the South Korean Olympic Committee, Un Yong Kim, has been found guilty of bribery and embezzlement by court in Seoul. He will now serve 2 years in jail.

I thought that the Olympics was not meant to be about money?

I hope that the people of Greece have that attitude; as it seems that the Greek government's estimate of the cost of holding the Olympics, originally 2.5BN Euros now 4.6BN Euros, may still be way off target.

PWC estimate that there may be another 1.9BN Euros unaccounted for in Greece's budget.

It seems that the citizens of Greece will be paying for these games long after the Olympic flame has been extinguished.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Bums on Seats

At the end of the day the name of the game is to ensure that the Olympics in Athens are fully attended, and that there are no empty seats.

The Athens 2004 Olympic organisers gave an update of the seat sales yesterday.

In summary:

  • The total number of tickets sold as at 16 April is 1833919

  • The total face value of the tickets sold is Euro137M (approx 75% of budgeted sales)

Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Marton Simitsek, in a candid admission pointed out that doing things at the last minute, including buying tickets, is typical of Greece.

If you want to buy tickets the prices are as follows:

  • Opening Ceremony: limited number of tickets in price categories Á (Euro950), Â (Euro750) and C (Euro350)

  • Closing Ceremony: limited number of tickets in price categories Á (Euro750), Â (Euro500) and C (Euro100)

  • Men's Basketball Finals (Gold Medal and Bronze Medal matches): limited number of tickets in price categories A (Euro300) and B (Euro150)

  • 64% of the tickets remaining (2250000) cost less than Euro20

  • 43% of the tickets remaining (1500000) cost Euro10 or Euro15

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

The Olympics Guaranteed

The International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, has issued a guarantee stating that the 2004 Athens Olympics will be held on time.

So that's alright then isn't it? Can't think why anyone was worried about the Games not being on schedule.