By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/27/2004 7:28:08 PM ET 2004-04-27T23:28:08

In the shadow of the Acropolis, in this nation where Olympics began 28 centuries ago, the modern day, $6.7 billion rush to be ready for this year’s games may be among the closest races in Olympic history.

In the main stadium, they are putting down the track, but otherwise it’s still a sea of concrete and workmen.  The seats won’t be installed until the second week of July.

And up at the top, the superstructure of the roof is the biggest challenge of all.  The roof is to be the architectural centerpiece of the games.

But until the highly complex job of sliding its giant supports into place is accomplished, vital television cables to broadcast the games cannot be buried below.

Already plans for another roof for the nearby swimming stadium had to be abandoned.

There is barely enough time to pave the marathon route, never mind curb and landscape it all.  And a new rail and tramway net is still unfinished, which could jeopardize travel for spectators.  

Spyros Capralos, the Greek government’s top Olympic official, admits they are behind schedule. “Of course we are worried," he says. “We lost some time at the beginning and we know that time is running very fast.”

How did Greece get in such a fix?  Many say the plan was needlessly ambitious, calling for way too many new stadiums and sites.

And then, three full years were wasted doing nothing, until the dynamic Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki of the Athens Organizing Committee was persuaded to take over and rescue the games. “We make up for lost time.  I know we have limited time and we are determined to finish this work in this remaining time,” says Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.

There are success stories: beautiful fields for baseball and for softball are completely finished.  And top priority was given to finishing a fancy new stadium for, unbelievably, tae kwon do.

The rush leaves little time for shakedown test events at venues like the water polo arena.  But Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis is confident, “Greece will be ready.  Athens will be ready.  And that is the essential for us.”

“We have shown with all of this construction that we can perform miracles and this is going to be one more miracle,” added Spyros Capralos.  “We have it ready on time.”

We’ll know soon.  There are 108 days and counting to opening ceremonies.

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