Project Watch: Olympic Stadium

However it turns out, the project to build the Olympic stadium for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens will make a great case study for students of project management.

Here are three news stories that give a hint about the status of the project:

As I scan these stories, I notice these quotes:

"In Greece, we are like ‘Sirtaki' dance. We start very slowly, and then we speed up. And then at the end, you cannot even follow how quickly it goes. So I believe that's exactly what happened with us," says [Athens Mayor Dora] Bakoyanni. "We might be afraid until the last minute, but I believe that we will be ready in time." (60 Minutes)

"So, granted, there have been delays. And there's been inefficiency. Call it what you will," says [former foreign ministry official Alex] Rondos. "The fact is that, as we approach the Olympics, not unlike the condemned man approaching the guillotine, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. And we are there right now." (60 Minutes)

[Deputy culture minister in charge of the Games, Fani Palli-Petralia:] "We are working triple shifts everywhere and we will be ready." (Reuters)

Petralia said: "We are turning nightime into day and I am convinced the project will be ready and will be magnificent." (Reuters)

Those quotes don't inspire confidence in me. But what does the project's key customer, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have to say?

"Our experts who have reviewed these plans say, 'Yes, it's feasible. It can be done,'" [IOC overseer Denis] Oswald said. (Associated Press)

"All the reports I receive indicate how fast and how hard Greece is working to complete preparations," IOC president Jacques Rogge said. (Reuters)

"Feasible" and "working fast and hard" don't have the ring of high confidence.

All of these quotes, from the IOC and from the project team, seem vague and non-committal. I don't know whether that's because the people are saying only vague and non-committal things, or because the reporters are selecting only vague and non-committal quotes, or what. Whatever the reason, these quotes smell funny.

The planned roof on the swimming stadium was scrapped weeks ago. Anyone taking bets on the (as yet uninstalled) glass roof over the main stadium?

(As I write this, news comes from Reuters of a series of three bombs exploding in Athens, near the hotel where Olympic officials will stay during the Games.)

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