Moscow and Rome feast on finalsThursday 5 October 2006
FC Torpedo Moskva owner Vladimir Aleshin has dedicated the award of the 2008 UEFA Champions League final to their Luzhniki Stadium to the "Russian fans", while the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is delighted with the following year's showpiece coming to Rome's Stadio Olimpico.
The UEFA Executive Committee yesterday decided to hand Russia its first European Champion Clubs' Cup final, the furthest east the continent's premier club fixture will ever have travelled. Torpedo's ground, which they share with current UEFA Champions League contenders FC Spartak Moskva, seats 84,745 and staged the 1999 UEFA Cup final between Parma FC and Olympique de Marseille. In its former guise of the Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium it was the main venue for the 1980 Olympic Games, including the football final, at which time it could hold 103,000. Although the surface is now an artificial FieldTurf, the 2008 final will be played on a grass pitch.
Aleshin, also the board chairman of Luzhniki Ltd., told Sport-Express newspaper: "It is not me who should be congratulated, but the Russian fans who will have a chance to see such a big football feast with their own eyes. This decision is recognition of the huge job that the Football Union of Russia, the Moscow authorities and the Russian government do for the development of not just Russian football but also the European game. The victories of our clubs in Europe, especially those of PFC CSKA Moskva, played a big part of course. We will lay natural grass here to conform to all UEFA conditions."
The 82,000 Stadio Olimpico, shared by AS Roma and S.S. Lazio, has more experience of European Cup finals, having hosted the match on three previous occasions. Liverpool FC won in 1977 and 1984 - the latter occasion beating Roma on penalties - and Juventus defeated AFC Ajax on spot-kicks in the 1996 UEFA Champions League final. Milan's San Siro has staged three finals and the 1991 event was at Bari's Stadio San Nicola. The Stadio Olimpico, as its name suggests, has also held the Olympic Games, in 1960, as well as the FIFA World Cup final 30 years later.
'Joy and pride'
CONI said in a statement: "We have learnt with joy and pride the news that UEFA has selected Rome as venue for the 2009 UEFA Champions League final. CONI believes this is a great recognition of the abilities of Italian sport to organise events and also of the quality of the stadium. The honour of hosting the final - ahead of prestigious candidates like London and Berlin - is reward too for CONI's efforts in improving the Parco del Foro Italico surrounding the stadium as well as the ground itself."
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