‘Soccer stadium will be ready’

The results of the first phase of ticket sales for next year’s Athens Olympic Games will be announced next Tuesday, organizers said yesterday. Tickets were on offer from May 12 to June 12 in the first leg of sales but, so far, organizers Athens 2004 have not given any indication of whether their initial sales target of 10 percent of the total 3 million tickets had been met. Athens 2004 said in a statement that Executive Director Marton Simitsek would give a briefing on progress at a news conference on June 24. Organizers had initially signaled they would have detailed data on June 20. Games organizers had set aside 3 million tickets for sale while another 2.3 million were for sponsors, national Olympic committees and TV rights holders for an estimated 80 million euros. The organizers said they aimed to sell at least 300,000 tickets worth 20 million euros during the first phase. Athens 2004 expects to make a total of 183 million euros from ticket sales, just under 10 percent of its overall revenues. After current ticket requests have been processed, all remaining tickets will go on sale between September and February next year. While organizers have said they were confident the Games would be sold out, they voiced concerns over the Greek habit of making late bookings. The average ticket price of about 35 euros is about a third cheaper than during the 2000 Sydney Games. Also yesterday, the president of soccer club Olympiakos Piraeus promised that repairs at the team’s home stadium would be completed in time for 2004 Olympics. Telecommunications mogul Socrates Kokkalis was quoted by the state-run Athens News Agency as saying work at the Karaiskaki Stadium would be completed by July 2004 – just a month before the Games. But International Olympic Committee officials have said concerns remain over whether the site will be ready. If not, organizers would be left scrambling to find an alternative venue to host the Olympic soccer finals and many preliminary matches. In March, the crumbling stadium was handed over from the Hellenic Olympic Committee to the State, which then permitted Kokkalis to repair it. In exchange, Olympiakos can use it for at least 49 more years. Kokkalis said the repairs will cost between 50 and 55 million euros ($58 million to $63.8 million). Kokkalis thanked government authorities and Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki for supporting him in his move to rebuild Karaiskaki with private funds. «I also thank the Hellenic Olympic Committee, which belatedly realized that it ought to leave Olympiakos to refurbish the crumbling stadium,» Kokkalis said. Olympiakos, which has won a record seven straight Greek championships is reportedly looking for a coach, having gone through four coaches last season. (Reuters, AFP)

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