A long-awaited deal to rebuild the coastal Karaiskaki stadium in time for the Athens 2004 Olympics was finally signed by the government and officials from the Olympiakos Piraeus amateur club early this week, following a year of back-and-forth negotiations, delays and even Parliament approval.
Karaiskaki, named after a Greek independence hero, fell into complete disrepair over the past few years, with its most lucrative tenant, the popular Olympiakos pro football team, opting for other, more modern venues – including the OAKA stadium prior to its closing for renovation in light of the 2004 Athens Games. The venue passed from the Hellenic Olympic Committee (EOE) to the state-run General Sports Secretariat before being given over to the amateur Olympiakos club as part of a 49-year-old concession.
Olympiakos has promised to demolish and rebuild the venue based on FIFA and IOC specifications with its own resources, as the new stadium is slated to host the 2004 soccer finals.
In comments on Monday during a signing ceremony, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos – whose ministry oversees much of the 2004 preparations on the government’s side – referred to a “crystal clear contract” that will both benefit the coming Olympic Games as well as the historic Piraeus club, owned by one of the wealthiest men in the country, IT and telecommunications magnate Socrates Kokkalis.
The first date for beginning demolition was given as Feb. 15 before an April 7 date was later given. However, the last week of April or first week of May now seems to be the target for commencing what by all accounts will be “break-neck” construction to rebuild the stadium in the coastal Athens district of Faliro.