Greece's neglected former Olympic venue to get major revamp by 2023

FILE PHOTO: General view inside Olympic stadium in Athens, Greece before a Greek Cup Final football match, May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece on Tuesday unveiled a plan to tap European Union and private funds for a revamp of its biggest sports complex, which hosted the 2004 Olympic Games but had been left deteriorating since then.

Covering a 250-acre plot, the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens (OAKA), which houses Greece's largest football pitch and other sports venues, has been incurring losses and cost the state 200 million euros ($235.66 million) in maintenance since 2005, according to the government.

The famed roof over the football pitch, which was designed by award-winning architect Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Summer Olympics, has been wearing out, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a small audience gathered for a presentation of the stadium's overhaul.

"I am delighted that after almost 20 years of inaction, this government has been able to invest the necessary funding to create a sustainable, state of the art sporting facility," Mitsotakis said.

His conservative government, which took office in 2019, has committed to a series of urban redevelopment projects in Athens to spur investment and create jobs.

Ground down after a protracted financial crisis, Greece hopes that funds from the European Union's post-pandemic recovery fund will help it pull its economy out of a coronavirus-induced recession.

The government will tap more than 40 million euros from that fund along with an expected additional private investment of more than 100 million euros to overhaul the stadium by 2023, Mitsotakis said.

The presentation of the plan came a month after Greek developer Lamda Development acquired the rights to the site of the former Athens airport, clearing the way for Greece's largest ever urban redevelopment project.

($1 = 0.8487 euros)

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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