SPORTS

Olympiakos seeks new home

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of Socrates Kokkalis’s administration at the helm of Olympiakos soccer club has been its ability to wipe out the enormous debts accumulated by the club’s former boss, Giorgos Koskotas, the entrepreneur that became infamous for embezzlement charges laid against him in the 1980s. The fact that Olympiakos is no longer burdened by outstanding debts to the State opens the road for future investment that could make the club more competitive in Europe. With its financial woes now a thing of the past, Olympiakos has hit the final stretch in realizing the most important plan in the Piraeus club’s history, that of constructing its own stadium. This longstanding aim dates back to the 1970s. The Town Planning and Public Works Ministry recently announced its approval of the plan for constructing the stadium in the area of Aghios Ioannis Rentis, a western suburb halfway between Athens and Piraeus. According to Kokkalis, the new sports complex will include – in addition to the soccer stadium – an indoor gymnasium and open-air swimming pool. The club’s original plan had entailed the refurbishment of the Karaiskaki Stadium in Faliron, which had served as Olympiakos’s home ground until the club moved to the Olympic Stadium several seasons ago. But talks between the Karaiskaki stadium’s owner, the Olympic Games Committee (EOA), and the club’s administration fell through. According to reports, the committee failed to accept Olympiakos’s offer for a 30-year lease. But despite the ministry’s approval of Olympiakos’s construction plan for the Aghios Ioannis Rentis district, reliable sources told Kathimerini that the refurbishment plan for the Karaiskaki stadium had not yet been shelved. The club’s search for a permanent home is highlighted by the imminent closure of the capital’s Olympic Stadium, by next summer at the latest, for renovation work ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games. Alternative venues currently being touted include the Panionios club’s home ground in Athens’s Nea Smyrni district and Panachaiki’s stadium in Patras, western Greece. But work would be needed at both grounds, which, in their present state, do not meet standards required for Champions League matches. Yet another, if seemingly more far-fetched, alternative available to the club, and one which requires no preliminary work, lies beyond the country’s borders, on Cyprus. The ultra-modern stadium in Nicosia is equipped with facilities that meet the standards for any international sporting event. This alternative is being considered seriously by the Piraeus club’s administration for several reasons, the most important being its far greater capacity compared to the smaller aforementioned stadiums.