<
>

Greece mulls program stoppage

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece is considering a suspension of its track and field federation because of cuts in state funding the past two years.

Federation head Vassilis Sevastis told The Associated Press his group will hold an emergency board meeting Wednesday to decide on a work stoppage aimed at pressuring the government to reverse the cuts.

Sevastis said Tuesday that the coaching staff and suppliers have not been paid for months, with the country in an economic crisis.

A suspension would prove an embarrassment to a nation set to hold the Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia on May 10 as a prelude to the London Games. It could also lead to Greek athletes missing the European Championships in Helsinki this summer.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee declined to comment on what impact a suspension would have on Greek competitors heading to London.

"The cuts in funding for the federation, last year and this year, are so extensive that they do not allow us to cover our basic needs," Sevastis said. "We can't do our job properly."

Federation officials said its budget was cut by nearly a third in 2011 and by a similar amount in 2012. It has about $8.7 million to spend this year, leaving track coaches and others unpaid for up to 10 months.

"After more cuts were brought in this year, we're at a dead end financially," Sevastis said. "We want the government to reverse its decisions."

Sevastis' threat came after several high-profile athletes complained that training facilities created for the 2004 Olympics in Athens have been poorly maintained because of funding cuts.

Faced with the threat of bankruptcy the last two years, Greece has slashed funding for sports, health care and public services as the country survives on emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund and other countries that use the euro.

The government is facing elections in late April or early May. It has so far refused to rescind any of its main austerity measures despite near-daily strikes and protests.

Officials from the ministry of culture and sport could not be reached for comment.