Greece shuts landmark Olympic stadium over roof safety concerns

A view of the Olympic Stadium with its dome, designed by award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, in Athens, Greece, October 2, 2023. REUTERS/Stamos Prousalis

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek authorities have shut the country’s biggest sports stadium amid concerns over the stability of its steel dome, an architectural landmark built for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

The 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium hosts major sporting events throughout the year, including the UEFA Champions league as well as sold-out concerts, most recently Guns N’ Roses in the summer.

Stadium officials said on Friday all activities would be halted indefinitely after a study found the stadium’s roof – as well as that of the country’s sole cycling track nearby – “did not meet the legally permitted levels of static adequacy”.

Both venues are housed in the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens (OAKA), Greece’s biggest sporting complex spanning 250 acres, which hosted the 2004 Games but has been deteriorating since.

Soccer club Panathinaikos has used the stadium for the team’s home European games in the 2023-24 season, playing Spain’s Villarreal last month.

After meeting sports officials, including the Hellenic Olympic Committee on Sunday, Sports Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said the decision to shut the facilities was “painful” and efforts were being made to find the best solution for “where the heart of Greek sports beats”.

Vroutsis was expected to announce later on Monday where the games and the activities would be housed in the meantime.

Originally built in 1982, the Olympic stadium’s famed dome was designed by award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed New York’s Ground Zero transport hub.

The conservative government, which was elected for a second four-year term in July, has faced criticism for the crumbling state of the Olympic complex. It had promised to revamp it in 2021 and had ordered the study into the state of its facilities.

In a video on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Stefanos Kasselakis, the recently elected leader of the leftist Syriza opposition, called the dome “the symbol of a country that is collapsing on all levels; a state that leaves everything and everyone to their fate.”

In a news briefing on Monday, government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis defended the state, saying “The government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which decided to assess these facilities … is the one being reproached by the opposition.”

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