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Athens' Olympic roof delayed again

Athens' Olympic stadium arches remain grounded.
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Athens (Greece)

ATHENS, Greece -- Athens Olympic organizers have again delayed beginning work on a spectacular dome that is intended to be the architectural centerpiece of this summer's Games.

The International Olympic Committee has given the Greek government until May 20 to slide into place two huge arches over the main Olympic stadium -- or abandon the project.

The arches are intended to support an 18,000 tons steel dome.

It's an engineering challenge that many architects fear borders on the impossible.

Government officials had said the arches would be moved into place over the weekend, but contractors said more time was needed to prepare for their final assembly.

"The slide will begin around Friday or the weekend and not earlier," a main contractor told Reuters on Tuesday.

"We are still cleaning up around the site to make sure that everything is in place before we move the arches."

The project, which has already missed one "final deadline" on April 28, is the latest to cause concern as the Greek capital races to finish work on dozens of Olympic venues ahead of the opening ceremony on August 13.

Spectacular backdrop

If completed the steel dome, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, will provide a spectacular backdrop for broadcasters and a new landmark -- almost as big as the Sydney Harbour Bridge -- for the city.

But the $177 million dome also has more practical uses. It will carry 1,000 tonnes of telecommunications and security equipment while carbon panels will reduce soaring summer temperatures inside the stadium for athletes and spectators.

"May 20 is the cut-off date," an IOC spokesman told the London Times newspaper.

"If by then the slide has not been done, we would have to say that work should stop and we must apply contingency plans."

An IOC team is due in Athens next week to check on the city's preparations.

But chief organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki remained convinced the stadium would be completed in time.

"To be sure, the schedule for installation of the roof and completion of the stadium is very tight," Angelopoulos-Daskalaki told The Associated Press.

"We do not expect the ultimate completion date of the stadium to be affected. At the end, we will have a beautiful stadium that reflects our vision for these Games."

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