With only a month to go before the opening ceremonies, Billy Payne is still hearing the same old questions: Will everything be ready? Will everything be paid for? Will everyone be overwhelmed by the heat?
Meeting with reporters who are in Atlanta to cover the U.S. track and field trials, the head of the city's Olympic committee dismissed concerns about the apparent lack of preparedness for the games that begin one month from today."This is exactly the scheduling we decided on four years ago," Payne said Tuesday at the Olympic Stadium. "There was no reason to put in temporary facilities months ahead of time because the cost to maintain them and repair them simply would have added to our budget."
Around the major venues in particular, orange construction barriers are still as familiar a site as the Olympic rings.
But Payne said the permanent facilities are virtually completed and most of the road work was planned for the weeks and days leading up to the games so it wouldn't be damaged by heavy trucks and construction equipment.
"I'm kind of proud to see the roads being paved," he said, "because they look good, and they needed it."
Payne took issue with those who questioned whether Atlanta had the grandeur and historical significance to play host to the world's largest sporting event. He said there would be a major sprucing-up of venues over the next four weeks.
"You're going to see a dramatically different look to the city, which I believe will forever take it out of the classification as ordinary," he said. "At the same time, we acknowledge that we're not a 1,000-year-old city. We've got to wait around 850 more years before we can point to any of our structures as having the greatness and magnificence only age can give it."
Repeating his now-numbing "on time, on budget" litany, Payne said the revenue shortfall was less than 10 percent of the projected budget, and he expects it to be made up by a late surge of ticket sales.
Amid continuing complaints from the track and field athletes about the blistering temperatures and lack of cooling-down measures, Payne said those concerns are being addressed with plans for additional misting devices and fans at the outdoor venues.
"Not all are deployed at this time, but they are definitely part of our games-time program and presentation," he said, adding that shade-providing tents are planned for spectators. "The weather will be hot here, without a doubt. But if we get our average summertime temperature, everyone will be all right."
One reporter noted the conspicuous number of homeless and poor people in the downtown area, where most of the venues are centered and most of the Olympic crowds will congregate.
"We are who we are," Payne said. "We plead guilty to the fact, as do most other major American cities, that there is too great a disparity of economic opportunity for our citizens. That is a fact of life in urban America."