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Roof progress has Greek officials optimistic

Associated Press

Progress on the main Olympic stadium’s roof gave organizers the push they needed in their race to complete preparations for the Summer Games, a lead official said Tuesday.

“We turned a corner now,” said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the chief Olympic organizer for Athens. “It’s a credibility corner.”

During a visit by the International Olympic Committee, workers continued to slowly push half the glass-and-steel stadium roof into place. The installation began Monday; the IOC had insisted the work begin with the team in Athens.

Officials said the 231-foot-high half-dome could be moved at more than 16 feet an hour and could reach its anchor spot later this week. It had to move a total of 234 feet.

“Many of us thank God that this progress was finally achieved and I agree. I believe, though, that many had their attention turned high toward the roof and lost sight of the progress achieved here, around them,” Angelopoulos-Daskalaki told IOC officials making their final major review of preparations for the Aug. 13-29 Games.

The inspection team — led by Denis Oswald, the chief IOC overseer of Athens — received a point-by-point briefing Tuesday about ongoing delays and security efforts.

“We received answers to all our questions,” Oswald said. “We are certain of the success of the Games.”

Last week’s bombings ‘high treason’

The triple bombing of a police station last week was “high treason” that blackened Greece’s image and its security efforts for the Olympics, the public order minister said.

The minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, was in Washington, D.C., for talks on efforts to safeguard the Games when the bombings occurred May 5, the start of a 100-day countdown to the Opening Ceremony. Nobody was injured.

“Such events — no matter how small and isolated they are — amount to high treason,” Voulgarakis said.

The blasts caused minor damage and were blamed by Greek authorities on local radical factions. No arrests have been made and there has been no claim of responsibility.

The bombings raised global concern about Greece’s ability to protect the Games.

On Tuesday, the Australian government upgraded its travel warning for citizens traveling to Greece and noted the “recent series of firebomb attacks.”

Voulgarakis called the action “an exaggeration (that) does not reflect reality.”

He described the bombings as a distraction and argued that a major increase in security costs and manpower announced this month mean Athens is “approaching the limits of absolute security.”

The security budget for the Games has reached $1.2 billion and could go higher, Voulgarakis said.

Security personnel has also been increased from 50,000 to 70,000.

Sakorafa wants to throw for Palestine

Greek javelin thrower Sofia Sakorafa has petitioned the IOC to allow her to compete for Palestine in Athens.

Sakorafa, 47, who broke the world women’s javelin record in 1982, said she has become a Palestinian citizen and hopes to compete. She would need an IOC waiver to bypass qualifying standards.

The IOC is expected to rule on Sakorafa’s petition next Tuesday. Greece’s Olympic Committee plans to discuss it on Thursday.

She refused to say how or when she obtained Palestinian citizenship, but an official from the Palestinian Authority said she has been in contact with diplomats and sports envoys for about a year.

Ismat Sabri, a deputy with the Palestinian Authority in Athens, called her appeal a “symbolic” gesture of peace.

Fire breaks out at broadcast center

A small fire broke out at the Olympic International Broadcast Center and was extinguished by the building’s sprinkler system.

The facility is at the main Olympic complex, north of central Athens.

The fire department said the blaze apparently was started by overheated electrical wiring in a basement storage area.

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