SPORTS

Greco-Turkish bid trips up

The Greek-Turkish initiative to host the 2008 European soccer championships made it to the next-to-last round of voting at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, yesterday, but it was another joint effort, that of Austria and Switzerland, a pre-voting favorite, that was awarded the competition in the end. The joint bid by Greece and Turkey had been given top grades by UEFA officials in pre-voting assessments of packages. But security concerns had crept through in recent weeks after some crowd trouble marred a UEFA Cup tie between Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos in Istanbul. The combined benefits of Austria’s soccer history with Swiss efficiency, neutrality and financial dependability, ultimately won over the voters. Despite losing the competition, Greece and Turkey, which had worked on their joint soccer bid for Euro 2008 as part of efforts to improve bilateral ties between the two nations, take with them encouragement for a possible future sporting collaboration. Greece’s minister for sports, Giorgos Lianis, hinted at a prospective common effort in post-voting comments. «I’m not upset, and I don’t consider that this is a serious defeat for our country and Turkey. We need to upgrade our international presence, we need to acquire more serious prerequisites,» Lianis said. Vassilis Gagatsis, the president of Greece’s soccer federation, EPO, hinted at behind-the-scenes manipulation. «Everybody was impressed by the proposal we presented. In their comments, the UEFA people described the bid as perfect, but other aspects are also brought into play. We’re quite satisfied with the quality of the work we presented,» said Gagatsis. His Turkish counterpart, Haluk Ulusoy, expressed bitter disappointment. «We were the best and most prepared, but they threw us out. For two or three days now, we’d been hearing rumors about Switzerland and Austria winning the competition,» Ulusoy said. «We didn’t believe it. But what we feared happened in the end,» he added. Commenting on the bid’s overall effort, Patrick Komninos, soccer manager of the Athens Olympics organizing committee, said valuable experience had been gained. «We gained plenty in terms of experience which will be useful in the future. It’s a great success that we made it to the last round of voting,» Komninos said. A further five bids to host Euro 2008 were lodged. Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden submitted a four-way Nordic bid; joint bids were also submitted by Ireland and Scotland, and Bosnia and Croatia. Hungary and Russia opted to bid alone.