SPORTS

Karaiskaki Stadium to be used exclusively as a soccer venue

After years of futile efforts to gain control of Karaiskaki Stadium in the Neo Faliron district, the Olympiakos soccer club’s cause seems to have benefited from the International Olympic Committee’s preference to stage soccer games there during the Athens 2004 Olympics. Yesterday, Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis publicly admitted that the stadium, owned by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) would be granted to the Piraeus soccer club for a long-term period. Olympiakos, which hosted its home games at Karaiskaki Stadium for decades before moving north to the capital’s Olympic Stadium, has been locked in fruitless negotiations with the dilapidated venue’s owner for its control. The club has offered to cover refurbishment costs on the condition that it eliminates the stadium’s existing running track. The HOC’s board wants to retain it. This dispute has kept the stadium’s facelift on hold and forced the Olympiad’s organizer to seek another stadium for the Athens 2004 Olympics’ soccer final. The recently revamped Rizoupoli Stadium, temporarily being used by Olympiakos as its home ground, was selected as an alternative, but the IOC has flatly rejected the prospect. On a recent visit to assess the progress of Olympic projects, Denis Oswald, chairman of the IOC’s Coordination Commission, decided that road access to the Rizoupoli Stadium was inadequate and has since pressured the Greek government to choose Karaiskaki Stadium as the venue for the Olympics soccer final. It was the venue mentioned in the city’s original bid for the 2004 Olympic Games. Lianis cited the stadium’s strong connection with soccer, and primarily, Olympiakos. «It [the stadium] has an extensive history and great figures have played there… By rights, Karaiskaki belongs to Olympiakos, as well as to other clubs that have used it,» he remarked. «The State is not handing out funds as a state, but providing help for the refurbishment of the stadium, which will be granted to Olympiakos, and will also be used for the Olympics,» Lianis said, adding that Olympiakos will shoulder a considerable portion of the project’s cost. Lianis said that the needs of the track federation would be covered by installations at Aghios Cosmas and Paeania and that Vassilis Sevastis, the federation president, was satisfied with the arrangements. Lianis did not exclude the possibility of building a track in Piraeus, but provided no details.