Athens' Olympic roof rises at last
ATHENS, Greece -- Organizers of this summer's Olympic Games in Athens have breathed a sigh of relief after the main stadium's roof began its long-awaited slide into position.
Top International Olympic Committee officials watched as the first of two arches that will hold an 18,000-ton steel dome above the arena started to rise on Monday.
The second arch will move into position in the next few days so a blue translucent roof can cover the 55,000-capacity stadium.
The IOC had given the Greek government until May 20 to slide into place the two huge arches -- or abandon the project.
The project, which has already missed one "final deadline" on April 28, was 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.
"Today we won the first bet," said deputy culture minister Fani Palli-Petralia, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis's personal appointee in charge of making up time on the delayed preparations.
Palli-Petralia broke a bottle of Greek white wine over the bottom of the arch seconds before machinery was set in motion to move the 70-meter-high structure.
"Now we have the big bet to host a unique and safe Games," Palli-Petralia told journalists present at the dusty construction site for the most anticipated -- and feared -- project after years of building.
"Today we responded to those who doubted that Greece can host unique Games. We are going to prove to them that Greece can do it."
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 tons of telecommunications and security equipment while carbon panels will reduce soaring summer temperatures inside the stadium for athletes and spectators.