SPORTS

Karaiskaki Stadium: The haggling is far from over

Late on Tuesday night, the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), owner of Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliron, decided to transfer its rights to the General Secretariat for Sports, which, in turn, will lease the stadium to Olympiakos soccer club, long-term, in exchange for a thorough facelift ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympics. But several finer aspects of the deal still need to be worked out. Firstly, the HOC, which agreed to the scheme on the condition that it be compensated by the State with another venue, remains unsure of the prospective facility’s location and nature. At this stage, all the HOC has are words of promise by the State. Andreas Fouras, a member of the HOC’s board and a former sports minister, has already proposed that the committee demand a 6-hectare plot of land at the nearby horse-racing track. Fellow board member Thanassis Beligratis described this prospect as appropriate. A track and field venue with the capacity for between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators and modern facilities to stage meetings, as well as possibly an adjacent gymnasium and swimming center, Beligratis said, would compensate for the loss of Karaiskaki Stadium. «If all this is done, then I think we will overcome Karaiskaki Stadium’s loss in the best possible way,» Beligratis remarked yesterday. Another murky aspect of the deal is the duration of the lease for Olympiakos, which had used Karaiskaki Stadium for decades before moving north to the Olympic Stadium. The club is hoping for a 50-year deal, but the General Secretariat for Sports is contemplating a time period of between 30 to 49 years. It is expected to decide once Olympiakos has completed refurbishing the stadium and an evaluation of the project’s cost is made. Officials at the Piraeus club estimate that the facelift will exceed 30 million euros. Olympiakos intends to deliver a fully sheltered and seated 32,000-capacity stadium. Prior to Tuesday night’s decision, Olympiakos had held years of futile negotiations with the HOC for the stadium’s control, but the two sides disagreed on the soccer club’s intention of eliminating the existing running track, which, after all, will be scrapped.