Greece's recently elected prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, assured President Bush during a meeting yesterday at the White House that the Athens Olympics would be both successful and secure.
The president, in turn, commended Karamanlis for the progress Greece was making in preparations for the Games, which will be held Aug. 13-29, and expressed regret that he could not attend. But the fact that the president's father is leading the American delegation is interpreted in Greece as a sign of confidence that the Games will be safe, Karamanlis told a delegation of international journalists during a news conference afterward.
It was Karamanlis's first trip to Washington since winning the national election in March. After meeting with Bush, he spoke with Vice President Cheney and congressional leaders on a wide range of topics, including bilateral cooperation, conditions in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.
Greece is spending more than $1 billion to secure the Games -- three times that spent to safeguard the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in a pre-Sept. 11 world. The exorbitant costs, far more than anticipated when Greece was awarded the 2004 Olympics, have been cited as a factor in the country's current deficit.
Asked at what point the Olympics become too big and costly, Karamanlis used the occasion to stress that Greece was "still willing and warm and happy" to serve as host.
"We live in a world which unfortunately has taken into consideration new challenges, and a responsible governments has to rise to the challenge," he said. "We deem it as our responsibility, and also the responsibility of the international community and our allies, to ensure a good and safe Games."