Long-overdue Olympic soccer deal reached

A long-delayed deal for the refurbishment of Karaiskaki Stadium in the capital’s seaside Neo Faliron district, ahead of next year’s Athens Olympics, for which the venue will be used to host soccer competition and the final, was reached yesterday between the Greek State and Olympiakos soccer club. The club, which has agreed to undertake the stadium’s refurbishment costs, worth an estimated 50 million euros, in exchange for a 49-year lease following the Olympics, will, as a result, return to a revamped stadium which has hosted its home games for decades. The lengthy and troublesome process leading to the deal was ended yesterday by the signatures of the Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, the government’s top-ranking sporting official, and the president of the Olympiakos club’s amateur division, Leonidas Theodorakakis. Though the Greek Parliament gave its blessing early last summer, yesterday’s deal had been delayed by a dispute between the State and the stadium’s previous owner, the Hellenic Olympic Committee (EOE). In recent months, EOE had threatened to block the deal after considering the State’s compensatory offer for an alternative location unsatisfactory. Even last week, EOE’s suspicions of unfair dealings by the State had not subsided. The committee demanded a copy of the contract drafted ahead of yesterday’s signing session after suspecting discrepancies between the version handed to MPs for assessment and the actual contract prepared for the deal between the State and Olympiakos. Under the deal, the new-look, 35,000-seat stadium will also accommodate the smaller Piraeus-based club Ethnikos, which has been closely linked to its larger neighbor for decades. Commenting on yesterday’s finalization of the deal, Olympiakos President Socrates Kokkalis described the agreement as a landmark event for the club. «A new historic period for Olympiakos in the 21st century has begun,» Kokkalis said. The refurbishment’s completion has been set for July, 2004, days before the Olympics open, on August 13.