Euro 2008 bid on track

European soccer’s governing body UEFA insisted that the crisis in the Greek game would not affect the joint bid with Turkey to host Euro 2008, as an inspection team arrived in Athens yesterday. The Greek league is in the last week of a monthlong shutdown in protest at government refusal to compensate for lost TV revenues. Athens, which will host the next Olympics in 2004, was the last stop on a UEFA tour of all seven bids ahead of a decision on December 12. «All of the challengers will be judged on the same objective criteria,» UEFA Director Mike Lee told Reuters. «They (the UEFA inspectors) are not interested in looking at a snapshot of what is happening in Greek football at this moment,» said Lee who has led inspections of a number of bidding countries. Greek clubs were hit hard by the September collapse of a digital pay-TV broadcaster, and subsequent demands for a share of state-run betting profits were turned down, leading to the protest. The six-member UEFA team led by Slovakian Frantisek Laurinek was unavailable for comment. «They are looking at the quality of stadiums and facilities and all the bids will be subject to the same criteria, applied equally and fairly,» said Lee. The officials visited the Olympic Stadium, being renovated for 2004, and training facilities at Rizoupolis, the venue for Champions League hopefuls Olympiakos. The Greek-Turkish effort is one of five joint hosts proposed, featuring a four-way Nordic bid of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway; Scotland and Ireland; Switzerland and Austria; and Croatia with Bosnia. The remaining bids come from Hungary and Russia. Traditional rivals Greece and Turkey have been labeled the odd couple by bid observers but Lee said the political opportunity presented by the partnership could act in their favor. «We realize that an event as big as the European Championship can offer a positive political and economic development. We appreciate that Greece and Turkey represent an important historical partnership and this is one of the positive things that could come out of the bid process,» he said. The UEFA inspectors, who have already reviewed facilities in Turkey, will announce their findings from the trip in Thessaloniki today, according to Greek bid officials.