Minister dismisses EOE demands for exchange

Responding harshly to tough bargaining by the Hellenic Committee (EOE) for the handover of Karaiskaki Stadium to the state for Olympic soccer competition in 2004, Sports Minister Giorgos Lianis dismissed the committee’s demands in blunt fashion yesterday. EOE is pressing for the capital’s old horse-racing track to be accepted in exchange for Karaiskaki Stadium, which until recently was owned by the committee and which the State wants to use as an Olympic venue. The State’s plan, following the Olympics, entails leasing the stadium on a long-term contract to Olympiakos, one of the country’s two most popular clubs, which has used the stadium as its home ground for decades. In return, the club has agreed to fully refurbish the stadium in time for the Athens Olympics. EOE’s demands for the racetrack, or at least a 6-7 hectare portion of it as a fair exchange deal, however, are not being met by the State. In statements yesterday, Lianis played down the controversy. «There is no complication. The prime minister, Costas Simitis, and the interministerial committee overseeing the preparation of the Olympic Games have signed. The racetrack will not be given to EOE. This matter has been settled. It is not EOE’s business to demand something which cannot be given. There are other alternatives,» Lianis said. Lambis Nikolaou, EOE president, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee’s executive committee, and the general secretary, Dimitris Diathessopoulos, both declined to comment on the minister’s remarks. «We don’t really have a say in ties between the State and Olympiakos. We’ve given control of the stadium to the General Secretariat of Sport. What it decides on is its business,» said Diathessopoulos, who warned that, in theory, EOE could revoke its decision on the handover of Karaiskaki Stadium.

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