Cleaning, painting among final preparations
ATHENS -- Four days removed from the opening of the 2004 Olympic Games, the most popular Olympic "sports" in the host city include:
"We are very satisfied with the response of the Greek public," said Michael Zacharatos, spokesman for the Athens 2004 organizing committee, also known as ATHOC.
Despite considerable lingering debris and metal scraps, signs are posted in all facilities reminding inhabitants to "Please Keep the Venue Clean".
"The International Olympic Committee has always expressed its confidence that our Greek friends would finalize preparations in due time, and today we can see that they have kept that promise," IOC President Jacques Rogge said Monday in a symbolic appearance in sweltering heat at the center of Olympic Park, home of the controversial Olympic Stadium and other key venues for swimming, gymnastics and cycling.
"We are extremely grateful to them for that. This has been achieved with a great efficiency amidst, I must say, a great widespread skepticism."
But frenetic work continued not far away. In front of Samsung's Olympic Rendezvous attraction in the park, a pallet of 42-inch plasma TVs, still in their boxes, baked in the sun on a 90-plus degree Mediterranean summer day. Next to the main stadium, stacks of uninstalled seats wrapped in plastic dotted the landscape. A forklift blocked the front door of a yet incomplete Kodak Digital Photo Center, and cleaning crews scrubbed the glass windows, doors and interior of the two-story Olympic Park McDonald's restaurant. Kodak, McDonald's and Samsung are global Olympic sponsors.
All of these last-minute activities are of little concern to locals who are queuing up to stake their claims for Olympic tickets following months of doubt that Athens organizers would sell them in substantial numbers.
As of Monday, Athens 2004's Zacharatos said, total sales were 2.4 million tickets toward a goal of at least 3.4 million. But because high-end tickets to medal finals and the opening and closing ceremonies are sold out, he said the organization is 90 percent of the way to its ticket revenue goal of 183 million Euros (about $150 million). But in this era of soaring costs to host the Games, that revenue source is only 10 percent of the $1.5 billion security tab facing the Greek government.
Organizers have erected ticket kiosks near competition venues to promote day-of-event sales as well.
Dressed in a the official polo and shorts mirroring the attire of staff and volunteers, Athens 2004 chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, former member of Greek Parliament, joined Rogge to reaffirm that the city and the organization are up to the challenges of the 17 days of competition, security and crowd control, beginning Friday.
"We're ready, our people in ATHOC are ready, the volunteers are fantastic, the Greek public has shown an unprecedented support by buying tickets, by being volunteers, by showing our guests there will not be in any transport problems," she said.
Rogge encouraged Greeks to flock to stadiums and cheer for the world's Olympians, and added, "I would like to thank the Greek public for the patience they had during the (construction)."
He should have singled out the guy with the bucket and the rag.Steve Woodward is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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