Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Olimpico to be restructured

The Stadio Olimpico will be restructured in an £11.5m project to improve safety and comfort ahead of the 2009 Champions League Final.

The arena in Rome has been chosen to host the Final in two years and this evening the CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) presented the plans to the media.

"The Stadio Olimpico represents the story of Italian football," said President Gianni Petrucci. "Last week L’Equipe named it among the top five stadiums in Europe."

Some of the changes include a reduction of the capacity from 80,120 to around 76,000, although the unpopular running track will remain. At least £2.7m of the budget is to be spent on increasing security.

"These are mostly ‘virtual’ seats we are losing, as in reality they are rarely occupied anyway because of poor visibility from there," added CONI secretary general Raffaele Pagnozzi.

There will also be new locker rooms built, expanding them from 110 square metres to 200, and a new tunnel to shorten the walk to the pitch. This has often caused problems, as Olimpico games almost always kick off late both for the first and second half.

The Olimpico changes come as pressure grows for clubs to be given stadiums they can own and maintain rather than the current system of leasing from the local councils.

"The Olimpico is only formally a secure stadium," said Lazio President Claudio Lotito. "We are only handed the keys on the Sunday morning, so the clubs do not have the opportunity to prevent materials entering the arena beforehand."

However, the CONI chief is not eager to back Lotito on this issue. "This concept cannot help but find a favourable response from us, but the Olimpico situation is different," warned Petrucci.

"We must not kid the fans here. You cannot resolve all the problems in football by giving stadiums to the clubs. There has been talk of this for years, but have you seen how many stadiums have been built recently?"

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