AEK stadium’s rebuilding faces obstruction by municipality

Preliminary work ahead of the demolition and eventual reconstruction of AEK soccer club’s home ground – and a prospective host for Olympic soccer competition – in the capital’s Nea Philadelphia suburb, was obstructed by municipal authority representatives yesterday. The municipality has also filed lawsuits challenging the stadium’s demolition permit and local building regulation revisions made to facilitate the project. In recent weeks, newly elected Nea Philadelphia Mayor Nikos Adamopoulos had opposed the project, citing environmental plans, before appearing to withdraw his concerns. He then focused his resistance to the plan on the new facility’s commercial use and locals’ claims that it would worsen already heavy traffic conditions in the area. At the time, Adamopoulos was presented with a traffic works plan by a state-sponsored professor of transport that seemed to sway the local council in favor of the project. The new stadium’s construction has already been approved by Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou, who, ultimately, has the power to overrule any objections by the municipality, a right acquired for Olympics-related projects. In yesterday’s apparent turnaround of events, municipal garbage trucks blocked vehicles carrying debris disposal containers and other apparatus from reaching the stadium’s periphery. The mayor was absent from the scene and unavailable for comment to reporters all day. His deputy, Yiannis Tobouloglou, confirmed that the municipality had taken legal action, which, he said, was based on protecting regional business interests against enterprises to be established within the new facility. Commenting on yesterday’s incident outside the stadium, Tobouloglou contended that the orders to obstruct approaching vehicles were given because trucks were entering the stadium’s surrounding parkland. Prior to the project’s state approval, municipal authorities had promised to drop all objections against AEK’s new stadium if Papandreou gave it her blessing. Under current laws, yesterday’s obstruction by the municipality breaches local property development legislation. The Nea Philadelphia municipality’s legal involvement in this project is limited to granting business permits for prospective enterprises on the facility’s grounds. Amid the currently tense climate, and with demolition work scheduled to begin this week, more controversial scenes outside AEK’s stadium appear likely to erupt on a day to day basis.