Athens: Greek newspapers slammed their 2004 Olympic Games organisers on Sunday for disarray during test events that ranged from teams getting lost to security lapses to a food poisoning outbreak.
Headlines compared boats going under water at the rowing venue in the opening test for next August’s Games to the sinking of the Titanic and forecast heads would soon roll at the highest level to make up for the blunders.
The newspapers said Athens Games chief Gianna Angelopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who held a special meeting to discuss the disarray, were both furious.
They were annoyed that in-fighting appeared to have broken out again between government and Games officials about who was in charge of the Olympics.
“Mistakes have been discovered in the planning of sports events, in hospitality, among volunteers, while communications and crisis management functions didn’t work,” the respected newspaper Eleftherotypia, one of the country’s largest, and normally pro-government, said.
Eleftherotypia listed a host of blunders, particularly with the Skinias rowing test event about 30 km from Athens, where competition was held up for nearly two days because of winds that caused US and British boats to sink.
The paper said that 24 percent of volunteers involved in the event changed their minds about giving their services to the Olympics after their first contact with the Skinias venue.
Some simply abandoned their posts, claiming they were put off by difficulties in getting to the venue using public transport.
Eleftherotypia said teams from South Korea and the Ukraine went missing for hours after their buses got lost on their way from the new Athens international airport to their accommodation near the rowing venue.
“It is certain that much will change after the test events. Gianna Angelopoulos is threatening (everyone) within 2004,” the newspaper said.
Other newspapers zeroed in on security lapses, including claims that some officers were not able to operate high technology screening and communications equipment.
A row over the withdrawal of Germany’s team from the rowing event with food poisoning rumbled on.
A government inspection of the hotel where the 63 Germans are believed to have caught salmonella found 13 hygiene breaches a month before the event.
“The responsible authorities are investigating all possible sources of the infection, however experts are focusing their attention on the hygiene and dietary conditions at the lodgings of the German delegation,” Athens Organising Committee (ATHOC) managing director Marton Simitsek said in a statement.
Eleftherotypia forecast that unless there were drastic changes there would be more trouble ahead before the actual Olympics start next August 13.