SPORTS

Olympic soccer men’s final moved to main stadium

Soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, yesterday announced changes to both the time and place of the men’s soccer final at next summer’s Athens Olympics. The men’s final, scheduled for August 28, has been brought forward two hours for a 10 a.m. start to avoid the midday sun, following approval by FIFA’s Emergency Committee. Moreover, the men’s final has been transferred to the Olympic Stadium from the smaller 35,000-capacity Karaiskaki Stadium, now under construction. The move to play the match two hours earlier than originally scheduled – decided on in the interests of players’ health – will provide the benefit of cooler midmorning temperatures on the pitch, FIFA said. The time change for the men’s final was most likely prompted by the recent death of 28-year-old Cameroonian midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed during a Confederations Cup semifinal at Lyon just over a month ago. The committee also approved the adoption of a modified format and match schedule for the women’s event. The group stage of the 10-team competition will be played with two groups of three and one group of four, with eight teams advancing to the knockout quarterfinal stage. The women’s final will be held on August 26 at 9 p.m. local time at Karaiskaki Stadium, in the capital’s southern seaside district. The women’s third-place final, to determine the bronze medalist, will also be held at the same venue, three hours earlier. The men’s third-place final will be held in Thessaloniki, at Kaftatzogleio Stadium. The decisions ratified the agreements struck at a working group meeting between FIFA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games Athens 2004 (ATHOC) in Zurich earlier this month. During that meeting, ATHOC also assured FIFA that the development of Karaiskaki Stadium would be completed on time, and that the venue would be available by the end of June 2004. FIFA welcomed these assurances, indicated its satisfaction with the current schedule, and expressed its confidence in ATHOC’s ability to deliver as promised. FIFA’s Emergency Committee had approved the revisions last Friday, before making them public yesterday. «I’m optimistic that the soccer Olympic tournament in Athens will be an absolute success,» said FIFA’s president, Joseph S. Blatter. «Close cooperation between FIFA and Athens 2004 ensures our ability to overcome any obstacles that may come our way.» (Kathimerini, Reuters)