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The current time in Athens is 02:22 on October 3, 2023

28th Olympic Games - JO

Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004

Features for Friday, August 6, 2004

It'll be alright on the night

There is a feeling of "we told you so" on the ancient streets of the Olympic city.

The people of Athens have copped an avalanche of bad publicity around the world over the past four years since Sydney produced what former International Olympic Committee boss Juan Antonio Samaranch called the "best games ever".

But with everything seemingly in place before next week's opening ceremony, the Greeks look likely to have the last laugh. Venues appear to be ready and there should not be any trouble delivering the television pictures to a global audience of up to four billion people. And there have been some strong signs the people of Athens are embracing the multi-billion dollar event.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said: "Day by day, Greece is convincing even the most distrustful that 2004 will be remembered in the history of the Games as the successful and safe Olympics of Athens."

Even as recently as six months ago the IOC, now headed by Jacques Rogge, feared the Games would be a disaster unless there was some rapid improvements. And Australia was not backwards in pointing out Athens' shortcomings like a successful big brother peering down his nose at an troublesome younger sibling.

However, the criticism has not sat well with the locals and they still harbour some ill feeling on the matter. Sydney-born Vageli Constantine, a restaurant owner near the Acropolis, said he never doubted the city would be ready in time for the Games.

"The only surprise was the criticism from the Australian press because they had no reason," he said. "If you are living here you could see things getting done. You can be behind schedule on a few things but we always score our goals in the 90th minute and we pull it off.

Australian Olympics president John Coates said making comparisons between the Sydney and Athens Games was a fruitless exercise.

"These Games will be very unique because the Games are returning to the birthplace of the Olympics," Coates said. "They will have a great cultural emphasis I am sure in the ceremonies and they should be appreciated for the uniqueness and their difference.