Greece's Olympic Stadium closed over roof safety fears

The Olympic Athletic Center of Athens
The Olympic Athletic Center of Athens Copyright Athens News Agency
By Jonny Walfisz
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The stadium designed to host the 2004 Athens Olympics has been temporarily closed over concerns that its roof is unsafe.


Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the roof of Greece's main Olympic stadium has failed recent safety tests, forcing TAIPED, the state’s asset utilisation fund, to close the stadium until further notice.

A TAIPED study found the metal structures in the roof fell short of the minimum static adequacy levels.

An investigation has been ordered by Athens into what the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations were and whether they have been followed since Calatrava’s renovation work.

The Olympic Athletic Centre of Athens (OACA) was first built in 1982 and hosted the Mediterranean Games in 1991 and the World Championship in Athletics in 1997. 

In the run-up to Athens hosting the Summer Olympics in 2004, the OACA was fully renovated to include its stadium with the famous roof design including bent leaves of laminated glass.

Petros Giannakouris/2004 AP
Fireworks are seen on the sky above the Athens Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony of Athens 2004 Olympic games Friday, Aug. 13, 2004.Petros Giannakouris/2004 AP

According to the TAIPED study, it is believed that the structural problems are not rooted in Calatrava’s design, but in a failure to maintain the roof according to provided recommendations.

Experts have spoken to Greek newspaper Kathimerini that they believe these recommendations were “deemed too costly”.

Public concerns over the stadium were first raised when oscillations were visible of the structure’s upper body during a football match between AEK Athens and Bayern Munich in 2019.

Athens News Agency
Athens Olympic Sports ComplexAthens News Agency

“Based on the above and with a sense of responsibility, every sporting and cultural activity in the Central Stadium and the Cycling Track is suspended as of today. A second study will quickly follow, in order to investigate more thoroughly and to confirm or not the elements of the current study,” TAIPED said in a statement.

“We share the [‘frustration from the] disruption in the sports family, but it is understandable that we must operate with the sole aim of the safety of athletes and fans,” the statement continued.

The current budget for renovations to the OACA is already around €56.5 million.

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