Delayed work finally begins at two Olympics soccer stadiums

After much delay, work on two separate soccer stadium projects, refurbishment of the Karaiskaki Stadium in the seaside Neo Faliron district, and reconstruction of the Nikos Goumas Stadium in Nea Philadelphia, both slated as Olympic soccer venues, began in earnest yesterday as bulldozers moved in on both sites. The agreement over the Karaiskaki project had been bogged down by legal wrangles. Just days ago, a deal was finalized between the Greek State and Olympiakos soccer club, which has agreed to undertake the project’s cost worth an estimated 50 million euros in exchange for a 49-year lease following next year’s Olympics. Subsequently, the deal will facilitate the Piraeus club’s return to a revamped version of its old home ground, where it had hosted games for decades. More recently, the club moved – temporarily – to the far smaller Rizoupoli Stadium in Athens. The new-look stadium, which is to host the Athens Olympics soccer final as well as qualifiers, will have a 35,000-seat capacity. The arrival of bulldozers at Karaiskaki Stadium coincided with the entrance of others across town at the Nikos Goumas Stadium, AEK’s home ground. The demolition and reconstruction of the venue, which is also to host Olympic soccer, had been delayed in recent weeks following resistance from local authorities. The Nea Philadelphia district’s newly elected mayor has opposed the project, citing environmental concerns for the area and the new facility’s negative impact on local business as a result of the prospective establishment of new enterprises within its grounds. In recent days the mayor, Nikos Adamopoulos, filed lawsuits challenging the stadium’s demolition and permit and local building regulation revisions that were made to facilitate the project. He also ordered municipal garbage trucks to block vehicles carrying debris disposal containers and other apparatus from reaching the stadium. But there were no signs of resistance yesterday. 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. Last Thursday a court of first instance put the municipality’s charges on hold, but the case is scheduled to be re-examined on June 2.