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Samaranch had issued 'yellow card' to Athens

ATHENS, Greece -- Former IOC President Juan Antonio
Samaranch said Friday that Athens had been just three months from
losing the 2004 games when he issued a warning to organizers four
years ago.

Before stepping down in 2001, Samaranch issued a stern warning
to Athens organizers -- he called it a "yellow card'' -- because of
massive delays. Current International Olympic Committee President
Jacques Rogge was then overseeing Athens' preparations.

"After consulting with him, I decided to say publicly that we
were showing a yellow card for Athens, and this yellow card was
very near a red card. A red card means no possibility to organize
the games,'' Samaranch said in an interview at an Athens hotel.

Asked how much more delay the IOC could have tolerated before
Athens was stripped of the games, Samaranch said "maybe three
months.''

Samaranch credited Athens' turnaround to the efforts of
organizing committee chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, and a
decision by the country's two major political parties not to turn
the Games into a partisan battleground.

"It was Gianna 100 percent,'' Samaranch about
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki's role in the turnaround.

Athens' preparations were plagued by years of delays that kept
the world, and the IOC, guessing until the last minute if the city
would be ready to host the Olympics.

"My first impression is excellent. It was a wonderful Opening
Ceremony and we are now in mid-Games and all is going well. The
Greeks are showing the world that they are excellent organizers,''
Samaranch said.

But that was not the case on April 20, 2000, when he warned the
Athens games were in danger unless Greek organizers make "drastic
changes'' by the end of the year.

Less than a month later, the woman who was head of the bid
committee that convinced the IOC in 1997 to give Athens the Games,
was brought back. When Athens lost its bid for the centennial 1996
games to Atlanta, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was appointed to head the
bid committee and widely credited for single-handedly winning it.