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Cash-strapped Greece calls off Olympic monument project

ATHENS, JUNE 17. A planned sundial-inspired monument will not be constructed outside the main Olympic stadium as Greece struggles with skyrocketing costs to stage and protect the Games, the project's architect said on Thursday.

Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, who designed the new roof over the stadium and other features around the grounds, said the Olympic monument was called off to try to keep costs down and avoid anything that would ``appear as an extravagance.''

The final bill for the Olympics may reach 10 billion (US$12 billion) — more than twice the budget — because of unprecedented security networks and rising labour costs to overcome serious delays for the Aug. 13-29 Games.

The International Olympic Committee had questioned the necessity for the 195 million (US$230 million) steel-and-glass stadium roof, which is yet to be finished. The IOC president, Jacques Rogge, also chided Olympic planners for rejecting ``low-key'' concepts for the overall Olympic projects.

Calatrava said the cancelled Olympic monument was the only ``symbolic structure'' in the Olympic complex and said it was scrapped for ``economic reasons.''

The monument was designed in the same ``spindle-shaped'' form as the cauldron that will hold the Olympic flame, according to documents from the Spanish architect's office. The monument would also serve as a sundial.

Other Calatrava designs at the Olympic complex include a walkway and the roof for the bicycle racing venue.

He declined to mention the final costs for the roof and other projects. He also would not discuss the opening ceremony. Organizers seek to keep the event's details a secret, but there are strong indications it could include flooding the stadium as part of a spectacle to recreate the Greek interplay of sea and land. — AP

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