Karaiskaki Stadium ahead of schedule, FIFA officials say

World soccer’s governing body said yesterday that construction at a long-delayed stadium slated to host the Athens 2004 soccer tournament is now ahead of schedule. FIFA officials visited Karaiskaki Stadium at Neo Faliron, near Athens’s main port of Piraeus, and said work is now catching up after being stalled by organizational problems. The venue will host the Athens 2004 soccer tournament. «It was a pleasant surprise for us to see such progress in the works,» 2004 organizers quoted FIFA Vice President Issa Hayatou as saying. «I’m sure they’ll keep to the timetable and that everything will be great in the summer of 2004.» Hayatou, who ended a three-day visit to Greece yesterday, is also chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Football Tournaments of Athens 2004. Karaiskaki had been a major concern for the International Olympic Committee. Athens organizers said work is now 23 days ahead of schedule. «We can confirm that the works are several weeks ahead of schedule,» FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot told The Associated Press. In March, the crumbling stadium was handed over from the Greek Olympic Committee to the State, which then permitted telecommunications mogul Socrates Kokkalis to repair it. In exchange, Kokkalis’s team, Olympiakos Piraeus, can use it for at least 49 more years. According to FIFA, the men’s soccer final will take place at the main Olympic stadium at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) on August 28, 2004, while the women’s will take place at Karaiskaki at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) on August 26. Hayatou, heading a FIFA delegation, also inspected works at venues for preliminary soccer rounds at the Greek towns of Patras and Volos. (AP)