Calm Urged in Spats Over Torch
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece’s culture minister pleaded Tuesday for a truce to a public spat over the handling of the scandal-ridden Olympic flame-lighting ceremony.
The complaints and finger-pointing over the May 10 event threaten to sidetrack 2004 Olympic planning at a time of intense scrutiny by the International Olympic Committee, which has put Athens on notice that swift action is needed.
``I would recommend coolness,″ said Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos, whose office is in charge of sports. ``The organization of the lighting ceremony was extremely bad. ... but I think to keep the discussion open and on a personal level for a long time is not favorable.″
The Olympic flame for this year’s games in Sydney failed to light by the sun’s rays after the ceremony in Ancient Olympia ran too long and clouds rolled in, forcing the use of a flame ignited during a practice session.
Government officials also were furious over a string of embarrassments, including a band that played out of tune and the huge backlash after the daughter of IOC vice president Kevan Gosper was inserted at the last minute as the first Australian torch bearer.
``The (flame lighting) ceremony was, to say the least, unacceptable,″ Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said. ``How can we be expected to organize Olympic Games if we can’t get the ceremony right?″
Lambis Nikolaou, president of the Greek Olympic Committee, blamed Avramopoulos for delaying the ceremony because he was late in arriving at Ancient Olympia. Avramopoulos said Nikolaou was mistaken.
Meanwhile, internal upheavals continue among top 2004 organizers, now headed by the former bid committee leader Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. The team’s vice-president, Niki Tzavella, said Tuesday she sent a letter of resignation to Premier Costas Simitis citing personal reasons. Her husband is seriously ill.