Soccer-Greece steps up security ahead of Europa Conference League final

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Soccer Football - Europa Conference League - Final - Olympiacos v Fiorentina - Agia Sophia Stadium, Athens, Greece - May 29, 2024 Police officers stand outside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek authorities have deployed more than 5,000 police officers and fire fighters and suspended traffic in areas across Athens in a major security operation as they prepare to host the Europa Conference League soccer final, officials said on Wednesday.

Local side Olympiacos take on Italy's Fiorentina in what will be the first time in more than half a century that a Greek club will play in a European final.

Greece, which has been marred by sports violence on and off the pitch, has been preparing for weeks for the match, to take place at the Agia Sophia stadium, home of Olympiacos's rivals AEK Athens, in a northwestern suburb of the city.

"It is a sports' celebration which we must protect and make sure that it is conducted flawlessly," said Attica Police Chief Ioannis Skouras, speaking on Monday.

Senior police officials held meetings with UEFA security experts in Athens earlier this month and studied measures at a match that took place in Belgium, to draft a robust policing plan, one of the officials said.

The civil aviation authority issued an advisory on Tuesday banning the flight of helicopters and drones over certain areas of Athens between 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) on May 29 and 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on May 30.

Police have already conducted security checks on the pitch, have barricaded the stadium, suspended road traffic and set up checkpoints in surrounding areas. Residents, who have been given accreditations to be able to move around, say the measures are unprecedented.

"The stadium ... is a fortress," 62-year old pensioner Ananias Kareklidis told Reuters. "We have never seen such measures."

Greek and Italian police authorities have also been liaising for the event and closely monitoring suspected trouble makers, police officials said. Thousands of Fiorentina supporters, including 600 that authorities have profiled as high-risk, will arrive in charter planes.

Tickets of three colours have been issued, including red and blue for the fans of the two teams. They will gather at different meeting points and will be transferred by buses and trains reserved for fans, under the watch of police officers. Presenting an identification document is necessary to be allowed access in the stadium.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Yannis Souliotis and Stamos Prousalis; Editing by David Holmes)

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