MPs approve Karaiskaki deal

Parliament yesterday gave the green light for a long-term lease of Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliron to the Olympiakos soccer club, which, in exchange, has agreed to refurbish the ground on time for the Athens 2004 Olympics. The government had submitted an amendment to Parliament on Monday stipulating that the stadium would be turned over by its owner, the Greek Olympic Committee, to the State, which, in turn would lease the venue to Olympiakos. The ruling PASOK party and main opposition New Democracy voted in favor, while the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and Synaspismos Left Coalition voted against. Olympiakos, which has used the stadium as its home ground for decades but is now temporarily based elsewhere in Athens, has agreed to cover the restoration costs, estimated at 50 million euros, in exchange for a 49-year lease for the newer-looking, 40,000-capacity stadium. During yesterday’s parliamentary session, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the government’s top Olympics official, said the Karaiskaki Stadium deal was transparent as well as beneficial for the State. Referring to the Olympiakos club’s president, Socrates Kokkalis, a telecommunications mogul, Venizelos called on MPs who oppose participation of the entrepreneur’s group in state-run tenders to table their arguments for parliamentary debate. On the capital’s two other major soccer clubs, Panathinaikos and AEK, which have both expressed interest in reconstructing their home grounds, Venizelos said better deals would need to be worked out. Procedures to allow the refurbishment of AEK’s ground were under way, he said. Venizelos’s deputy, Giorgos Lianis, who handles sports issues, said the government had an objective view on the ground refurbishment plans of the three major Athenian clubs. «All the great clubs in Europe nowadays are based at their historic home grounds and the ministry is seeking an overall approach. There are no favorable deals,» said Lianis, who contended that the State would not contribute a single euro to Karaiskaki Stadium’s renovation.

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