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May 10, 2000
Athens organizers buoyed by shakeup

 ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The Olympic climate has changed in Athens.
 
 "Now we are finally on the way," Costas Bakouris, the managing director of the Greek committee organizing the Athens 2004 Olympics, said Wednesday.
 
 He spoke in the aftermath of an organizational shakeup on the eve of the International Olympic Committee's fourth inspection visit since Athens was awarded the games in 1997.
 
 Last month, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch sharply criticized Athens over organizational problems he said could jeopardize the games.
 
 He had urged "drastic action" to rectify problems in housing, traffic, security, communications, construction, venues and infrastructure. His warnings created fears Greece could be stripped of the Olympics.
 
 But the appointment of Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the woman largely credited for winning Athens' bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics, to lead the organizing committee has ended feelings of impending national humiliation.
 
 "I was never pessimistic. I was always optimistic. Simply, we had expressed our opinions for the need to speed up the rate of preparation of the games," said Jacques Rogge, head of the IOC panel that oversees the Athens Games.
 
 Rogge, in Athens for the lighting of the Sydney Olympic flame and the three-day inspection, said the IOC was satisfied with the appointment.
 
 "We know her qualities and she knows the Olympic movement very well," he said.
 
 Greece's Socialist government promised to make preparations for the Olympics its "top priority." Premier Costas Simitis pledged to be more personally involved and will head a committee dealing with the games.
 
 Samaranch met Wednesday in Lausanne with Greek Culture Minister Theodore Pangalos, who briefed him on the changes in the organizing committee.
 
 Outgoing chief Panagiotis Thomopoulos is deputy governor of the central Bank of Greece. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki takes over next week.
 
 "I accepted with honor. ... I will do what I have to do to organize a good Olympics," Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said.
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