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Athens in race against time

By Diana Muriel
CNN

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Olympic preparations behind schedule
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Athens (Greece)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The heat is on for Athens to be ready for the Olympic Games this August.

As the Olympic flame is lit at the start of its journey to five continents before returning to the Olympic Stadium this summer, many are questioning the preparedness of the Games.

Not only is the Greek Olympic project behind schedule, the heightened risk of a terrorist attack during the Games following the bombings in Madrid is causing even greater problems for the organizers.

For Athens and the Olympic Games, there's no time to lose.

The Greek capital is a giant construction site. Many projects are behind schedule, and a few might not be completed in time.

The country's new prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, has taken personal charge of the Games, and Olympic organizers remain publicly optimistic.

"We started late, but all projects they are not just on track they are on schedule now," says Gianna Angelopoulos, president of the Athens Organizing Committee.

"I am confident, I am very confident that everything will be on time and Athens will be ready."

But the catalogue of problems is lengthy:

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  • The roof of the Olympic swimming pool had to be abandoned.
  • The $136 million giant glass-and-steel dome over the main Olympic Stadium may not be ready.
  • Re-paving the route of the original marathon is behind schedule, and landscaping the area has been abandoned.
  • A railway linking the Athens airport with the city was scrapped.
  • The deadline for a tramway linking the city center to coastal sports venues has slipped.
  • There is also concern that construction delays could compromise security.

    "Security drills preferably should be carried out with everything built properly, in particular the transport systems and in particular the new railway from the airport to the Olympic village," says Crispin Black of the Risk Advisory Group.

    After the Madrid train bombings, NATO will now provide sea and air security for the Olympics, as well as protection against nuclear, chemical or biological attack.

    Seven countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, will contribute to the security, which is budgeted at more than $800 million -- three times the cost of security at the Sydney Olympics.

    Despite the construction delays and security concerns, the Games of Athens are scheduled to begin on August 13 -- a Friday.


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