AEK at risk of remaining homeless

AEK, one of Greece’s leading soccer teams which was formed in 1924 by refugees from Turkey, is in danger of finding itself without a home ground again as a decision by the country’s highest administrative court has frozen construction of its new stadium. The decision yesterday also rules out the possibility of AEK’s Nikos Goumas stadium being used as a backup during next year’s Olympics. The Council of State accepted a petition by the municipality of the Athenian suburb of Nea Philadelphia and 131 citizens, who called for the temporary suspension of construction work until the Council discusses their petition on November 5. Yesterday’s ruling was based on the fact that a freeze on construction would not cause irreparable harm as the stadium was so far behind schedule that it could not possibly be built in time for the Olympics. A final ruling is expected no earlier than January. Even if this is favorable to AEK, construction would begin in spring, which means that the team will be homeless next season as well – with all that this entails for its performance and finances. There are fears that even if work on the stadium goes ahead, adjacent projects will not be allowed. This, in turn, would sharply diminish the value of the investment, leading to the cancellation of the 32,000-seat soccer stadium as well. AEK, in other words, would find itself homeless for the foreseeable future. The project, which the government approved on June 26, includes the soccer stadium, a 7,000-seat indoor basketball arena, a smaller basketball court, two indoor volleyball stadiums, a conference center, a shopping center, cinemas, theme restaurants, a swimming pool, tavernas, banks and pharmacies. The Council of State noted that the project would expand over 3,200 square meters which are part of Nea Philadelphia’s park. Not only would this damage the park; it would also burden an already heavily congested area with large facilities that would have a negative impact on local businesses and traffic conditions. The men’s Olympics soccer final will be played at the Olympic Stadium. Olympiakos’s Karaiskaki Stadium at Faliron, which is being rebuilt from scratch, will host the women’s final in 2004.