Samaranch all praise for Athens organisers

Former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who three years ago warned Athens that it would lose the Games if it did not pick up the pace, said the 2004 Olympics would be the best for years to come.

Six years to the day after awarding the Games to Athens, the first time since their modern revival in 1896, Samaranch praised the organisers for catching up after wasting more than three years of preparations.

Samaranch flashed organisers a yellow card in 2000, a step short of stripping them of the Games, after they failed to keep within International Olympic Committee progress timetables. Initially, the Athens Games preparations were plagued by in-fighting in the organisation

"I am sure that the Games will be the best for many years in Olympic history," said Samaranch, in Athens to promote his book "Memorias Olimpicas."

"I personally think that these Games will be a great, great success, both for Greece and also for the Olympic movement." He said while the IOC owed Greece a debt, which it paid back by awarding the Games to Athens, organisers had come very close to losing the Olympics.

"The yellow card was very near the red card. But the reaction after that was very quick and positive," he said. "We are paying back our debt we had with Greece."